Are you a bear, a skunk cabbage, or separate from it all?

Jill Frayne, in her wonderful book Starting Out in the Afternoon:  A Mid-Life Journey into Wild Land, ruminates on the idea of being connected to the natural world — deeply connected to it — in conjunction with it — not merely associated to it as one part.  The Inuit, she writes, citing work by Barry Lopez in Arctic Dreams, don’t distinguish between “us” and “them” (animals, nature, the physical world) like we do, and that’s something special:

I am struck by a culture that orients more to non-difference than to difference, that perceives of a small boy, say, as a variation on a fox or an ice floe.  A natural relation for human beings with land, I think.  Natural and yet unusual, because our urban North American power of discernment is overdeveloped.

Our brains teem with the activity of ruling out, eliminating, selecting, discriminating, a habit we practice a thousand times a day that gives us a false idea that the objects of the world are separate from each other and from us.  We think a bear is not the same thing as a human or a skunk cabbage.  Yet physical science, if you don’t like New Age, tells us that we are in fact all one.  A bear and a skunk cabbage are much more the same than they are different.

What would it be like, I wonder, if our first thought, regarding anything, was to perceive the kinship, the non-distinction, rather than shorting out to the difference between things?

What, indeed?

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