The other difference I want to mention—and essentially every traditional indigenous person with whom I have ever spoken has said that it is the fundamental difference between western and indigenous peoples—is that even the most open Westerners view listening to the natural world as a metaphor, as opposed to something real. I asked American Indian writer Vine Deloria about this, and he said, “I think the primary thing is that Indians experience and relate to a living universe, whereas Western people, especially science, reduce things to objects, whether they’re living or not. The implications of this are immense. If you see the world around you as made up of objects for you to manipulate and exploit, not only is it inevitable that you will destroy the world by attempting to control it, but perceiving the world as lifeless robs you of the richness, beauty, and wisdom of participating in the larger pattern of life.” That brings to mind a great line by a Canadian lumberman: “When I look at trees I see dollar bills.” If when you look at trees, you see dollar bills, you’ll treat them one way. If when you look at trees, you see trees, you’ll treat them differently. If when you look at this particular tree you see this particular tree, you’ll treat it differently still. The same is true for salmon, and, of course, for women: if when I look at women I see objects, I’m going to treat them one way. If when I look at women I see women, I’ll treat them differently. And if when I look at this particular woman I see this particular woman, I’ll treat her differently still.
Here’s where people usually ask, “Okay, so how do I listen to the natural world?” When people ask me this, I always begin by asking them if they have ever made love. If so, I ask whether the other person always had to say, “put this here,” or “do that now,” or did they sometimes read their lover’s body, listen to the unspoken language of the flesh? Having established that one can communicate without words, I then ask if they have ever had any nonhuman friends (a.k.a. pets). If so, how did the dog or cat let you know that her food dish was empty? I used to have a dog friend who would look at me, look at the food dish, look at me, look at the food dish, until finally the message would get across to me.
How do we hear the rest of the natural world? Unsurprisingly enough, the answer is: by listening. That’s not easy, given that we have been told for several thousand years that these others are silent. But the fact that we cannot easily hear them doesn’t mean they aren’t speaking, and does not mean they have nothing to say. I’ve had people respond to my suggestion that they listen to the natural world by going outside for five minutes and then returning to say they didn’t hear anything. But how can you expect to learn any new language (remember, most nonhumans don’t speak English) in such a short time? Learning to listen to our nonhuman neighbors takes effort, humility, and patience.
(via Fierce...Flawless...) (Read the whole article HERE)