DAVIDS DESK #118 – FLYOVER STATES
DAVIDS DESK #118 – FLYOVER STATES
Back in the days when I was regularly traveling to give lectures and workshops, I always tried to drive to wherever I needed to go. If time were an issue, then I would take a plane, but otherwise, I loved road trips. I loved seeing the various parts of the United States and getting to know my country from the ground up; after years of cross-country trips, there are only three States I’ve never had occasion to visit. The United States lives in me in my memory of all the different landscapes that I’ve seen. When I think of America, it’s all there for me, from Maine to California and from Washington to Florida.
As my family grew, my travel time diminished. I didn’t want to spend so much time on the road away from Julie and the kids. So, I began flying more. I enjoy flying, too (or I did when it was a more comfortable and less harried and crowded experience). There was a thrill to looking down and seeing countryside through which I had previously driven. Still, I missed the closeness with the land and with places and people that I experienced while driving. I had become a “flyover” person.
I don’t know when the term originated or started to become popular, but I became aware of it last year during the Presidential Election: “Flyover States.” These are the States in the middle of the country that air flights between the large urban centers of the East and West coasts regularly fly over. To be a Flyover State is at one level a simple description of a fact of life as more and more people live on the East and West coasts and take non-stop flights back and forth. But especially last year, the phrase took on additional meaning. Flyover States were the homes of the “forgotten Americans,” the ones whose opinions and activities were not as important when compared to what goes on in places like New York, Washington, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the large metropolises on either side of America. To be a “Flyover State” carried connotations of being ignored, overlooked, not seen, or even disdained as being of lesser importance. Certainly, if a person’s only view of America is from 30,000 feet, he or she is not seeing and connecting with the country in the way a person does who is driving from one coast to another.
There are commentators who describe one of the divisions in this country, of which there currently appear to be many, as that between the heavily populated and generally more liberal metropolitan areas of the Coastal States and the less populated and often more conservative Flyover States. I’m sure there’s a truth to this, and the last election would seem to confirm this, showing again the intent of the Electoral College to give political power to States with smaller populations.
However, when I think of Flyover States, it conjures up an entirely different image for me. It seems to me that one of the many challenges facing us in this country, and for that matter in the world at large, is how easy it is to step into a “flyover state.” Such a state is not a place but an attitude that can arise when we encounter someone who is different from us. This difference could be political, religious, ethnic, racial, economic, or something as trivial as a difference in hairstyles or clothing. Unless we are compelled for some reason to engage with this person, we can “flyover” them in our minds and hearts. We can fail to encounter the territory of their life; we can fail to make connection.
I’m sure we’ve all experienced this, both as the one doing the flyover and the one being “flown over” and overlooked. We all live at one time or another in our daily lives in a flyover state. The cumulative effect is that we come to know each other less and less, and spend more and more time clustered mentally and emotionally with those with whom we agree. “Flying over” pushes difference out of our lives or at least diminishes its impact. We see only what we want to see.
I believe that our hope lies in our ability to connect, and this requires that we walk into each other’s territory, at least enough to appreciate another even if we don’t agree with his or her positions and beliefs. Turning each other into flyover states will not help us going forward. The future depends on understanding. The major problems and challenges of the world are systemic and cannot be solved except through collaboration and cooperation. If we can’t go so far as to love each other, we must at least know and respect each other. This requires looking at our differences directly, up close and personal, and not dismissing or ignoring that with which we do not agree.
At this time, our country is embroiled in problems caused by our various differences. If we hope to solve them, we must work to connect and live in our hearts and minds in united states, not flyover ones.
Join Julie Spangler and Susan Sherman, with guest David Spangler, for Journey Into Fire. During this six week online class behind held on our Educational website, participants will explore their unique, human journeys and practical ways to experience the sacredness within. For more information or to sign-up, click here.
DAVID’S DESK #122 – BEING GAIA
David’s Desk is my opportunity to share thoughts and tools for the spiritual journey. These letters are my personal insights and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole. If you wish to share this letter with others, please feel free to do so; however, the material is ©2017 by David Spangler. If you no longer wish to receive these letters please let us know at info@Lorian.org.
At the end of this month, Lorian will be hosting its first major public conference. I’m excited about it because of the excellent roster of international presenters it will have and also because it will be my first time giving public talks, other than online, in several years. I’m looking forward to it, and naturally, I hope you can come.
The conference is called “Gaianeering,” a term coined by my Lorian colleague Jeremy Berg to describe the many ways, inner and outer, that we can contribute to the wholeness of our planet and to our own spiritual development. Which is, besides to make a shameless plug for this event, what I’d like to discuss in this month’s David’s Desk.
In 1979, the British scientist James Lovelock published the book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth. In it, he presented evidence that through the auto-regulatory systems of the biosphere, the Earth acted as a living organism. At the suggestion of his friend, the author William Golding, he proposed to call this organism by the Greek name for the goddess of the earth and the mother of all life, Gaia. This was the beginning of what was called the “Gaia Hypothesis,” co-formulated by Lovelock and the American microbiologist, Dr. Lyn Margulis. Although initially met with skepticism by their scientific colleagues, further research generated enough evidence in support of this hypothesis that it became accepted and graduated to becoming the “Gaia Theory.”
Both Lovelock and Margulis were Lindisfarne Fellows, members of the Lindisfarne Association founded by cultural historian and author, William Irwin Thompson. This was a gathering of scientists, artists, engineers, economists, historians, spiritual teachers, philosophers, and even an astronaut, all promoting a society committed to holistic thinking and behavior and working towards a positive future for humanity. As I was a Lindisfarne Fellow as well, I had occasion to meet and talk with them both at the Association’s annual conferences.
The theme of one of these conferences was “Gaia: A Way of Knowing,” which later became the title of a book edited by William Irwin Thompson. The conference focused on the idea of Gaia not simply as a way of talking about the planet as a living organism but as a way of describing a more holistic, ecological, systems-oriented world view, a way of understanding the world as networks and patterns of interconnections, relationships, and interdependent wholes rather than as collection of discrete but separate entities. In other words, how would an organism think that was responsible for the vast, complex interactions that make up the ecology of the planet and that sustain all life? How would we think with such a focus?
I thought of this worldview as “thinking like a planet,” a way of thinking and engaging the world in ways that are holistic, ecological, and systemic, honoring the whole and the whole-within-the-part. It is a worldview that is native and instinctive to the non-physical beings who are my subtle colleagues, but it’s one that’s not so familiar yet to most of us living in the industrialized world which is historically based on a non-holistic, non-ecological way of perceiving and acting in the world. As we are seeing the destructive consequences of that approach, it seems to me the challenge of our time, for our survival and the survival of many other species that share the biosphere with us, is to learn how to “think like a planet.” It is for me a form of thinking that is infused with love and the willingness to nourish and foster life in all its forms.
What the idea of “thinking like a planet” also implies is that we are the planet. We are Gaia. If anything, this is what an understanding of ecology (both physical and spiritual) teaches us: that we cannot separate ourselves from the web of interconnectedness and interdependency that makes up the web of planetary life. We simply cannot affect one part of our world without affecting in some manner all other parts, including ourselves. Some of these consequences, as we are learning, can be disastrous. It is in our best interests to learn to think in terms of the whole system of which we are one part.
We are Gaia, so let us think as Gaia.
This is what Gaianeering is all about. It is learning to think and act as if we are not only our human selves but an embodiment of the spirit of the Earth as well. As our power to affect the planet as a whole has grown exponentially over the past century, so has our need to be the spirit of Gaia—to become skilled and wise practitioners of Gaianeering—grown as well.
[If you would like more information about the Gaianeering conference this month, in which both practical and theoretical aspects of this theme will be explored, you will find it on Lorian’s website here.]
From July 8-15, join Rue Hass for Imagination, Shapeshifting and Loving the World. In this week-long Lorian Discovery class, you will engage in activities to help you understand the spirit of your own imagination, our human imagination and the imagination of the earth. Click here for more information and to register.