I live in the Ravine and in case you are not familiar with the dorm rooms, they take an insurmountable amount of effort in order to make them look not as dreary as they actually are. And on that Thursday night, I was exposed to the quintessence of life, the epitome of humanity; a sublime way of living. It was a place that was filled with the spirit of God. The witnessing of the ethereal sunset setting on top of the land that waved as we walked by, while it scratched at our faces and brushed our hair with its brilliant colour and intricate brush strokes; this, combined with the companionship among a group of people I used to call strangers, is why I felt utter peace.
Then it all changed as soon as I stepped into my dorm room. I stood in the doorway with my already wilting sunflower and the both of us stared at the off-white walls. We couldn’t help but feel like we were entering willingly into a place that had no right to be even called a place. There was no longer a cool breeze, no lingering smell of warmth, no sound broke through the walls and erupted our senses. It was completely devoid of sunlight and psyche. Devoid of what we call the weather and what the Ancient Chinese called the “Ch’i of Heaven”. In this human made apparatus, the universal breath of the earth was no where to be felt.
What I felt like my sunflower and I returned to was darkness and constraint. We started to feel claustrophobic, like we were being forced into a colourless, lifeless, concreteness. Coerced by not anyone in particular but by the way we were brought up to exist: to be easily manipulated. I placed the sunflower, the token of sustainability and altruism, in a gatorade bottle filled with water on my windowsill, and it looked absolutely miserable. As if it knew that it was plucked from its natural home and brought to this placelessness of steel and translucent air, it stared out my window with a hunched back; already counting the days until it finally withers and dies.
And that is exactly how I felt, as I stood in the doorway of my dorm room, while my roommate explained to me the mundane meeting she had to go to that night and the in-class essay she was preparing for the next day. I began to feel a slow profound sadness that seeped in at the thought of my inevitable ignorance and the helplessness toward how I was living. I am not at all saying that I wish to leave Augustana; in fact I believe that I belong here. But as I was sobbing in the shower that night at the fact that Don and Marie wake up each morning to the ephemeral light in their kitchen window, collect the eggs, and start their day’s work, (I am fully aware, that this is at best, a very untrue and cliche farm image, but how and ever.) I began to realize that I was living in a very socially constructed world so detached and cut off from the home that I was created to be amalgamated with.
A wave of nostalgia over took me and I realized that I missed the way we all sat on the back of those trucks as powerfully as I miss my family back home. The trucks drove us through puddles, pot holes, and uneven ground, but no one fell off. As we were bunched together, enjoyably being with our little, temporary “families”, we sat uncomfortably, our hands turned white while holding on for dear life, and we swayed and bumped into one another. But we laughed and discussed the technicalities of living. We talked of the ingenuity of the ways in which the farm sustained life for all living things, (the last of all and the servant of all), and the ingenuity of the way the paradigm of purchasing and consuming treats us, yet tricks us from the day we learned to inhale.
We discussed how human beings are vulnerable megalomaniacs and are very aware of it. And we talked about beauty and the sublime that one can be sure to find even in the bleakest of winters, and the simplicity of such greatness. But it was only in retrospect that I realized that this was the ultimate metaphor for life. The land is our home, and we were slowly passing through it, sometimes stopping to admire and dwell in the details, but ultimately hopping back on those trucks to carry on. At the end of the day, when the sun cast its final shadow on the fur of the earth as it sleepily sank into a deepening darkness, we hopped off those trucks for a final time, said our goodbyes, took a sunflower and a cookie, and returned home, more content than ever.
If I hate anything, it is the arrogance of ignorance. I was taught from many important people in my life that a lack of awareness is what we are born into and it is a very deep trench that is difficult to climb out of. I am a child of humanity, and therefore an automatic child of naivety and vulnerability. I feel that by simply living, I am subconsciously contributing to sinister corruption based on the fact that we all are hypocrites whether we choose to be or not. Everything we buy from the store, everything we eat, everything we wear, everything we listen to on the television, radio, and internet are the reasons why this earth is slowly depleting. We are sheltered and with being sheltered, we grow hungry, so we are fed lies. But if we ignore are hunger for just a moment and think about the immense destruction human beings are capable of, we would all be deeply disgusted, and this disgust would be the catalyst for change. And that is exactly what the eminent “they” are trying to hide from us. They manipulate us into believing that we are not capable of thinking, and by doing so, we are slowly losing our free will and the earth is slowly losing its patience as well as its capacity to survive. It is only when one of us breaks through the cycle and refuses to spin round and round the two faced system that keeps tugging at you to keep on moving with the rest of the crowd, to not dare stand up and stand out. It is only when one of us says the simple “no”, that the cycle slowly starts to slow down, and ignorance and naivety recede. Edmund Burke sums this all up quite nicely by saying that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good [people] do nothing”.
But I am a student. At a University. My choices are limited greatly by my monetary circumstances. I am surrounded by the exploitation of resources. Everything encapsulating me has been or will be demolished for the sake of my comfort and security. I drive to Walmart to purchase commodities that I do not need. I eat the meat of cows, pigs, and chickens that barely lived through the torment they suffered in their short lives. All of these issues boil down to the fake democracy we are living in and the éminence grise feudalistic world that lurks in the background.
Our world has turned too materialistic and has been filled with an abundance of avarice that is slowly taking the place of what we call inanimate, abiotic objects that fail to fit what we deem “being alive”. Humanity sees itself as preeminent in all aspects, and that those that are not properly equipped with a human voice are not worthy of any justice, let alone proper acknowledgement. But what we are somehow failing to take into consideration is the fact that these abiotic objects are the key sources and foundation of our existence.We are capable of the abuse and slaughter of living, breathing beings who feel emotion and pain. So that begs the question: what exactly are we doing to the inhabitants of this earth that do not have faces and cannot breathe? What is the magnitude of the pain we cause to those things that we deem not human, not alive, therefore irrelevant? I do not think our minds have the capacity to wrap around the immensity of the ruination we cause. We have become so detached from our earth. And our hubris, megalomania, and avarice have caused that detachment. This is not who we were created to be. This type of mind set is the essence of inhumanity.
There is a reason as to why the earth is described with female pronouns, and given a maternalistic title. Sometimes known as Gaia, she is fertile; she gives life and takes care of the ones whom she houses. She is our mother but as powerfully as she brings life, she can just as easily remove it, and when we don’t treat her with the respect she not only deserves but needs, our race will vanquish with her. We have become dependant on impermanent materialism and it will be our downfall. We try to objectify and possess everything, but the land that we stand on is in possession of Life itself.
There is hope though. As there always will be. Because each of us recognizes that our planet is immensely beautiful, and to a certain extent, vulnerable as well. And I believe that when we step back and view ourselves from a philosophical self- conscious perspective, all of us will find those maternalistic qualities: the need to give, the need to protect, as well the capability to love.
So to conclude, my sunflower did die. And when it reached the point where I finally decided to let it go, it was no longer the great flower that it used to be. It was drooped over and it looked tired, where as at the Rusicka’s Sunset Farm, it was so full of the sun. The five days it spent in my room was the last of its life, but by simply being there, my dorm room was filled with a holy refulgence. Some of us go to great lengths to brighten up our rooms: fancy lighting and posters. But the sunflower is all we need to bring light into our homes, and they are not just temporary flowers used for decoration. Slowly, we are reverting back to our sources and the division between infrastructure and the environment will diminish.