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Archive for September, 2013

NATURE

The element of Nature symbolizes change, or mutation, or adjustment, or flexibility, or most powerfully, transformation [transformation = a fundamental change in character or structure].  Nature involves recurring cycles.  On the wheel of life, Nature is situated on the East, opposite Mineral.  Nature reminds us that change is the constant and that change is inevitable.  Hence, Nature offers us the opportunity to welcome change, to embrace change, and to honor change [how often do I find myself resisting change…too often I must admit].

The Nature-person is a person with great capacity to adjust to, to welcome, to embrace and to honor change.  They are experienced by others as ‘wise’ (the crone or the wizard).  I find it interesting (is this the right word?) that we in the civilized West are more likely to fear nature and use vast amounts of energy and resources to ‘control her.’ Rather than be faithful stewards of nature we consume her, use her up and destroy her.  In our hubris we see ourselves as separate from or transcendent to nature [we are like ‘gods’ whose ‘will’ must be obeyed].  ‘Progress’ too often means the destruction of Nature — why, because Nature stands in our way of progressing.

Nature-people challenge us to embrace change as both a constant and as natural to our world; they challenge us to embrace Nature and to be her good stewards.  They remind us that we humans are not above Nature but are integral partners with her — we, literally need Nature in order to survive.

Cultures that are deeply connected to Nature are sensitive to the cycles of life.  Their stories contain symbols and references that remind us of the importance of Nature, cycles and change in our lives.

The dark-side of Nature (its ‘shadow’ if you will) is represented by the crone or wizard that uses their ‘magic’ to cause us harm or that leads us astray or that supports our creating wastelands (some barren and some cement and concrete) in the name of progress.  In Yoda’s terms, they seduce us to the power of the dark-side of the force.

It seems to me that of the five elements, we are most challenged by Nature; being ‘modern’ and ‘post-modern’ seems to require that we separate ourselves from Nature and that we then destroy Nature and do so guilt-free.  It seems that technology, more and more, is used to deplete not nurture Nature.  We seem to have forgotten — or we just don’t believe — that Nature’s destruction is our destruction; it is not a matter of ‘if’,’ it is a matter of ‘when.’  There is hope for we are blessed with Nature-people who daily remind us of our need to be integral partners with Nature and that we can still choose to become the good stewards of Nature.  My fear is that their voice will soon be the voice crying from the wasteland that we continue to create.

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MINERAL

For many indigenous cultures, Mineral is the elemental energy that allows us to remember, to communicate with one another, to express deep feelings, to remember our origins, to honor our ancestors, and to help us remember our purpose in life.  On the wheel of life, Mineral is located in the West.  For indigenous cultures, our bones, not our brain, are the storage house of memory.  An elder might say: “This is in our bones just as it was in the bones of our ancestors.”  Even in our culture it is not uncommon for someone to say, “I knew it in my bones.”  This type of ‘knowing’ refers to a deeper and more elemental way of knowing than is possible with rational thinking.

Any creature born with bones is to be born already possessing certain knowledge.  For indigenous cultures, no one comes into this world without possessing some knowledge and it is the culture’s charge to help the person learn what this knowledge is and to help the person develop his or her ‘innate’ knowledge.

Indigenous people don’t learn by looking outside themselves — they strive to learn how to remember the knowledge they already possess.  As an Educator (from the Latin ‘educare’ — to call forth) it is my charge to ‘call forth’ the wisdom, the gifts, the talents, the potential that already exists within the person.  Educators call forth that which is ‘hidden’ from the person.

The person who has a Mineral nature speaks a great deal because Mineral verbally expresses or reveals what is stored in one’s bones [or what is stored in the culture’s bones].  Mineral-people are great story-tellers and are fascinated with stories, myths, and traditions.  They love metaphors and symbols and use them to enhance their stories.  Some Mineral-people are poets or writers of songs or hold the proverbs of the culture and share them when they are needed.  Through their stories, poems, songs, proverbs, etc. they praise, remind and warn.

A culture rooted too heavily in Mineral is frantically involved with communicating and communicating to the point whereby no one really listens or pays attention.  Mineral cultures are also steeped in argument and debate as contrasted with dialogue and deep conversation.  Mineral-people are outgoing to the point of being verbally over-whelming.  Their gift is the gift of ‘remembering’ — remembering one’s (including the culture’s) origins and purpose.

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EARTH

Earth is fed by Fire and Water; some indigenous people believe that Earth is the result of Fire and Water interacting in a certain way.  Earth represents ‘life’ and its cycles, sustainability, healing and love/caring.  Earth gives — and when cared for, gives abundantly.  Earth cares for all who walk upon her — the saints as well as the sinners, the ordinary and the extraordinary.  On the wheel of life, Earth is located in the Center.  This center-position is the hub of the wheel and paradoxically, Earth is connected to the other elements and is also the meeting place for all five of them.

The person who is of Earth is a lover of all.  This person cares for all, supports all and seeks to find healing for all.  Earth-people are by their nature nurturers.  They believe in abundance and abhor scarcity — these are the folks who will, literally, give you the shirt off of their back or go more than the extra mile for you.  Helping others feel ‘good’ enables the Earth-person to feel good.  The Earth-person cares for others’ Physical, Intellectually, Emotional and Spiritual well-being.

An ‘Earth-less’ person is not grounded and is lost.  He or she feels empty, isolated and lives in a wasteland.  In our culture we struggle with what to do with the ‘home-less’ person.  Since our culture is a Fire-Culture we are more likely to consume the home-less rather than care for them.  Our Fire-Culture is supported by cement, concrete and steel and hence we have lost our connection to the Earth and the Water; we are more likely to consume both rather than care for them.  Earth-people seek to remind our Fire-Culture that Water and Earth are necessary for our survival.

Community-building requires all Five Elements and cultures that are predominantly Fire-Cultures are deeply challenged when it comes to building and sustaining Communities.  Earth-people provide us the necessary grounding — a home, if you will — which will hold and sustain community.  Without community people will take and consume more than they will nurture and sustain and Fire-Cultures consume more than any other culture.

Fire, Water and Earth must learn to balance one another and they must also learn to make room for and embrace the final two elements that make up the wheel of life.

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WATER

For many indigenous people, water was the element that, when mixed with fire, produced the necessary changes that promoted the emergence of life.  The fire that was earth was cooled and became solid and this then allowed it to support life.  Moreover, water provided the element for new life and for life to be sustained.  Humans are the children of water.  Water, in effect, can lay claim to anything that is alive.  Water purifies and sustains.  In many mythological stories, water is ‘the water of life.’  For us humans, water cools the enflamed psyche.

On the wheel of life, water is located north — opposite of fire.  Its color is blue.  Water seeks to cleanse, to heal and to reconcile.  Water brings balance to fire — it helps ‘water down’ the powerful passions that are fire-fed and fire-sustained.  Water can dampen the dangerous effects of fire and it is needed to restore life to the wasteland that out-of-control fire creates.  To seek water is to seek to reconcile and balance that which is constantly in danger of being thrown out of balance; for us, that which is caught in the fiery loop of speed and consumption.

Water encourages us to slow down, to dive into the deep currents of our life and culture — to become awake and aware of all that fiery-speed keeps in a blur; water helps us achieve a balance between focus and panoramic.

The water-person moves slowly, demonstrates deep understanding and seeks to help make things work for the greater good.  The water-person perceives the world as ‘possibility’ and ‘potential.’  The water-person images health for community, for individuals and for relationships; love and harmony are highly valued.  Water supports grief — the grief that arises from recognizing loss and failure and wounds inflicted.  The tears we shed because of our grief are meant to help us heal and are also meant to help us ‘wash away the impurities’ that are a natural part of being imperfect beings.  Tears are also one tap root of reconciliation; a reconciliation with self as well as a reconciliation with the other(s).

When persons and cultures are out of balance and unreconciled, waters easily become polluted.  Pollution is NOT a sign of progress; it is a sign of crisis and a sign that healing and reconciliation are needed.  Clean water becomes more and more scarce (you might recall gentle reader that uncontrolled fire leads to scarcity).  Simply stated, fire does not like water!

A water culture values balance (seeks to keep all in balance) — ‘harmony’ is a good watch-word for a water culture.  Water cultures are ‘slow’ cultures and are moved by the deep currents, not the waves.  On the other hand, people and cultures who have too much water and little fire have no passion for life and have little ambition.  They do not care if anything ever gets accomplished and easily become annoyed if rushed.  Fire needs water and water needs fire.  Neither is healthy without the other.  In harmony, they support the third element, the Earth.

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FIRE

For many indigenous people, Fire is the original element of origin — the element that was present at the beginning.  Its primary nature is combustion, warmth, vision and feeling-passion.  On the wheel of life its position is south — the underworld — and its color is red.  Those with fire as their primary element are believed to have ‘open channels’ to our ancestors and they also have powerful visions of the future [they make great Shamans].  For all of us, fire enables us to act, to emote, and to intuit.  Fire-people are restless, demonstrate powerful emotions, and have electrifying dreams.  Because of their intensity, people of fire often find themselves on the fringe; they cannot quite fit in and others cannot understand why they are not able to be like everybody else.

One reason it is difficult for others to understand the fire-person is because the fire-person lives in the future and finds the ‘average’ person too slow on the uptake.  His or her behavior is seen by the other four elements as impatient, hyperactive, intolerant of the norm, and even ‘out of control.’  A fire-person finds it near impossible to be idle; to slow down, to relax, to reflect or meditate.  On the other hand, the fire-person can use their ‘fire’ to warm those around him/her; they can be a gentle flame that warms relationships; they can be a ‘fire’ that nurtures and does not destroy.

If a fire-person — or in our case a culture — forgets its crucial relationship with the other elements then a fire is fed that becomes a destructive force.  When this separation occurs the fire-person and the fire-culture perceives everything in terms of fire.  Fire becomes for the person and the culture equated with power, speed, destructive hierarchy and becomes the most important ‘value.’  The person and the culture become a person and a culture in high combustion.  When a person or a culture is burning in this manner it is near impossible for either to sit still, be patient, think clearly — they become obsessively focused.

Consider, gentle reader, that our culture (in the United States) is a culture on fire; we are like a fire-ball moving at high speed — we are, in fact, deeply fascinated with speed.  On the surface this speed shows up as high horsepower while deep within the culture it is orchestrated by combustion.  This deep burning from within is symptomatic of a kind of crisis that drives the culture to be driven by and consumed by the fire.  As recent ‘big fires’ remind us, fire is dangerous when it is out of control; it destroys all in its path and leaves a wilderness where there was nature.

For the people who live in a culture that is on fire — that is obsessed with fire — the world is ‘red.’  These people rush foolishly and obsessively forward with a consumer’s mentality [take all that you can take and eat all that you can eat]; they pollute more than nurture and they are willing to destroy anything that gets in their way.

A fire-culture promotes consumerism and cultivates scarcity and hence a scarcity mentality-culture is created.  A culture on fire is fascinated with violence — violence becomes highly marketable and at the same time stimulates the fiery nature of the culture.  I have been criticized these past few years for suggesting that we are a culture that loves violence — a few weeks ago a fellow said that if I didn’t change my thinking that he would beat me up!  A fire-culture is a war-culture.  This war-culture sees solutions in terms of fire and conflicts as fire and that fire can be destroyed with fire [our view that we can use fire to stem the use of fire in Syria is a good example].

A fire-culture requires a great deal of water in order to heal.  So, next we will explore ‘Water.’

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