Becoming Native to a Place

I am searching for farm landscapes (farmscapes); researching & writing something about how to look at land as other than a utilitarian set of ‘resources’, a list of measurable ‘nouns’ to put on a truck with a weight and a dollar attached; meaning reduced to mere numbers. This is the technocratic curse.

Our environment is more defined by functional connections and dynamic flows, ‘verbs’ that emphasise the dancing and the singing of landscapes and the community within. I wanted something that illustrates Connections to community, and to land, and to spirit. And I found this. Zane Williams – Southwest Wisconsin. It will not resonate with all, and I would prefer a New Zealand example that is on a par with this image – a Grahame Sydney of Central Otago, all big sky and dry – but I quickly found this Williams, and felt the need to express.  The image is not the point.  The point is the representation of what it is to belong.Williams_panoramic_wi

Have those connections, be in a landscape, be in a socialscape, be in a soulscape (a thoughtscape), and you are whole. This is the lesson of Human Ecology and of Indigenous thought – and I include all the Europeans in Indigeneity, because we come from waves of Celtic and Germanic tribal connections and spirit/land/culture tales of folk.

We are ‘indigenous’ if we have those connections, and we build that sense of ‘Becoming Native to a Place‘, not when we have been here through the generations, but when we feel these connections. Carl Jung understood; “The earth has a soul.” It is only this current obsession with a 400 year-old so-called ‘Modern’ Disenchanted Age post-Bacon & Descartes trumpeting dualisms and hard analytical dichotomies that separated us – from each other, from the land, from spirit.

To the ‘Modern’ mind, it is not just land that is a ‘resource’, you are seen as a ‘resource’, a thing, worthless without a dollar attached.  Here evil begins.  Analysis can kill synthesis, tangential dreams and thoughts, intuition, deeper meaning, feeling, instinct, sense, wisdom – and then we lose the moral sense. We justify Gulags with models and finance.

And even then only some of us lose those connections; the ‘educated’ experts of the Modern Age – taught to murder to dissect as Wordsworth wrote, to see the world through Discounted Cashflow analysis or a simple disconnected mechanical task because the land is a factory and animals are units of production; to continue the Modern Plan A of Easter Island destruction writ large to our island Planet Earth by mining the Moon, then Mars – the extension of Mordor to the Universe, feeding Sauron and his henchmen.

It is with our dys-connection that the sickness begins. And the destruction. When you are whole inside yourself, to diminish the land, or the community, or the soul of things, is to diminish yourself.

The solution to our Terminal Age is not in technical fixes and a continuation of our Modern disconnect, it is in sensing our belonging, and diminishing the hard false logic of the technocrats.

Chris Perley


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3 Responses to Becoming Native to a Place

  1. danbloomer says:

    A theme well captured in “The Castle”. Home vs house

    Dan Bloomer (mobile) 21 356 801 Page Bloomer AssociatesCentre for Land  and Water21 Ruahapia Rd, RD10HASTINGS 4180

  2. clive anstey says:

    As usual I totally agree. How do we foster a re-engagement? The ‘knowing’ and ‘sensitivity’ your Blog calls for only comes from experience, from an emotional engagement with ‘place.’ It is the challenge for ‘collaboration’, to build a shared connection with land that recognizes transcendent qualities, that gets individuals beyond the constraints of self interest and defensiveness. Perhaps water issues will reawaken people to the commons?

    Your search for a lived in rural landscape that captures the beauty that can be expressed in such relationships is interesting. We tend to celebrate landscapes that are not lived in, that are protected from us. Our ‘working’ landscapes tend to be functional.and mono-cultural. But we do have some lovely ‘lived in working landscapes’. And many are owned and managed by farm foresters, people who face the land rather than some distant and dispassionate ‘board’..

    • cjkperley says:

      Thanks Clive, I hope you are well. I would so love to have a wine in the shade under a tree and just natter for hours.

      The point about our celebration of land that is protected ‘from us’, is really interesting. I think Modernity sets us apart, and that setting apart from nature can come in two ways – the industrial resourcist way; and the preserve way. And then we argue about where the fence will be between our dichotomies.

      I was intrigued by John Muir, the great builder of Yosemite and Yellowstone – where the Shoshone were physically removed from this ‘natural’ space. Muir was not only happy with that – and his tirades against the Seminole tribe of Florida suggest a certain distance from humanity as well – he was also happy to see local wetlands destroyed for industry in his near neighbourhood. So long as the preserves were there – in the distance, somewhere, which he had the means to visit on occasion.

      The shift from Modernity and all its dualism to some post- or late- or some-damn-name that no one is happy with yet, has to be about reintegration – a re-enchantment, a re-connection, a realisation of sense that I am *of* this land, this place. In academic-speak – we live in socio-ecological systems. Set asides of ‘nature’ so that Corporate-Creed destruction is allowed to continue will not save us.

      This is still a difficult conversation to have with environmentalist colleagues. Forest & Bird has quite a few Conservative voters – it appears inconsistent but it isn’t because they see through the same eyes as Muir. They still think in dichotomies and either-ors. “You can have a forest or furniture but you can’t have both” sort of rhetoric.

      To be whole, really whole, I think we have to live within landscapes, as part of it. Edward Ellison, Kai Tahu kaumatua, said it best; “[Modern] Europeans think they own the land. To Maori, the land owns us.” That shook me into thinking what that meant for how we view land. And then he said something like “We come out of the land and fold back into it when we pass; and while we live the land folds through us; we eat, we defecate, we piss.” Like two interlocked dynamic rings. And doesn’t the *ring* have such symbolism.

      I suspect the challenge of Environmental Philosophy is to get these metaphysics right. Utilitarian approaches worry me greatly. I do not think the structural logic – all things are values as ‘instruments’ for my or my economy’s purposes – is anywhere near where we ought to be. It will – I believe this, so it is not hyperbole – that view will eventually destroy us.

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