“We make a living by what we get. But we make a life by what we give.”
Norman MacEwan

Custodial Relation to a Sentient Landscape

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This morning I wrote this in a Samkhya journal entry:

The text itself is not a body of knowledge. It is a place-holder, a seed around which knowledge can crystallize. The knowledge is held in a kind of morphic field of all the teachers and students who have together engaged and explored the text and brought it into their lives. The actual knowledge crystallizes over lifetimes of intimate exploration.

In an earlier revision of the post there was more about how Samkhya reaches back into antiquity, how it originated in oral cultures … and now I read this:

… Archives are great, but they are only temporary. The Egyptians learned that the hard way.
The only sustainable way to store data long-term is within relationships – deep connections between generations of people in custodial relation to a sentient landscape, all grounded in a vibrant oral tradition. This doesn’t need to replace print, but it can supplement it magnificently – those two systems might back each other up rather than merely coexist. Relationships between systems are just as important as relationships within them. Oral traditions grounded in profound relationships represent a way of thinking that backs up your knowledge in biological peer-to-peer networks and provides a firewall against dictators who might decide to burn down your libraries. It also mixed things up cognitively and allows your brain to rewire itself in more healthy ways. I call this way of thinking kinship-mind.

Tyson Yunkaporta – Sand Talk

The phrase “custodial relation to a sentient landscape” has a strange reverberation. It feels like it points to truth but has no anchor in my lived experience. Most of conscious-me has no idea what this really means … in an embodied, grounded way. Thinking about it doesn’t make it better: I have a feeling that most of unconscious-me doesn’t know about this either:

  • The tribe I was born to has been without a relationship to a “Sentient Landscape” for around 2000 years.
  • The land to which my tribe was supposedly related to has been decimated over that period of time. Historically it is said to have been an abundant landscape. Now it is mostly barren and harsh.
  • When “my tribe” awoke to their need for land they embarked on a violent journey that may have earned them access to this land, but came with a heavy spiritual price. They do not seem to treat the land as sentient.

And yet I sense a truth in the phrase “custodial relation to a sentient landscape.” I have tried to come into such a relationship with the land that currently holds me. I never felt comfortable “owning it.” I have tried to be a steward to it, but that hasn’t worked out too well either (I’ve really only been able to keep others from exploiting it).

And I think about the teachings that resonate most with me, Yoga and Samkhya. These come from other lands, lands I’ve never set foot on (in this physical body).

The only land I really know is my own physical body. But what is it without earth-land? Where is the earth from which I came? Where does it belong? My felt experience is that it doesn’t.

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