Suzerain or Steward

, March 24, 2015 in Reflective Essays

There is a saying that many of us are familiar with and it will be paraphrased here:

“ And you shall have dominion over all the Earth and all the creatures thereof…”

How we interpret this dictum will determine how we make many of our choices in life. We may be the reflective type and try to consciously deliberate on the consequences of our actions before embarking on a particular course. Deeper yet, we may observe that all of our actions are the manifest consequences of our thoughts and desires. When we organize our thoughts and desires using values and attitudes we begin to have rules and boundaries on our conduct. Many of our thoughts are given to us through culture and language. We participate in a social contract whereby we make “agreements” within ourselves as to the meaning of words & ideas and act accordingly. If we participate in religious practices, we get another layer of guidelines for appropriate behaviour. Members of society find themselves bordered between culturally mediated taboo and religious dogma. We have to engage our inner faculty of conscience to conduct ourselves in our daily choices that add up to our total behaviour. A self-directed life requires selfawareness.

Most of the world lives with the false attitudes that competition is what makes individuals better because they falsely believe that competition is what drives the animal kingdom and sustains evolution. This Darwinian axiom is oft quoted by the business community who also pretend there is something called a “free market “ and set up business structures based on these two falsehoods. As we have been exploring in our previous letters there is a driving force in evolution but it entails cooperation and the development of organized structures that work for the good of the “whole.” The whole can be the individual being, the specie, the habitat or entire ecosystem. At each level of life, the participants are in or are seeking relationships that establish harmony, balance and dynamic equilibrium. Competition is a misinterpretation of what seems readily apparent. When we feel obligated to describe natural phenomena using statistical mathematics, the nuances of life are reduced to equations and graphs. The mathematics that can describe the behaviour of smoke winding up from a snuffed candle, for example, came as recently as 1975 under the title of “chaos theory.” How can something infinitely more complex as an ecosystem be described by a mathematical model? When Canada started to manage the environment by creating a Ministry on the Federal and Provincial levels the first people chosen to directly oversee the land and game and forests etc. were the aboriginal Native Canadians. They would report to a local office, at first orally and later in writing, on the lands they were responsible for overseeing. The numbers of licenses issued for hunters and fishers were determined by the Natives. Eventually universities began handing out diplomas for environmental studies and the Natives were replaced with graduates from the school systems. Major attitude differences can easily be found between the various park rangers and their decisions and subsequent actions can be reflected thereon.

The Native rangers grew up and lived within the habitats they were to oversee. They included themselves as part of the system and looked at the consequences of their actions upon future generations. They did not understand ownership but did understand relationship. For the centuries before the Europeans colonized this continent, Aboriginal North Americans numbering in the tens of millions inhabited it with a relatively light ecological footprint. Unlike the Europeans who were flooding into their homeland , they did not destroy the forests to build cities and they did not hunt unto extinction the many game animals they relied upon. In general terms, the majority of North American Natives lived within the boundaries established by Nature by living and learning the “way” of Nature. E.g. when a wolf pack hunt caribou they can only catch the slower, sick or feeble animals which can not keep up with the moving herd. In this way, the healthy leaders of the herd reproduce keeping the collective strong. When modern hunters go out, they seek the largest buck with the largest rack for a trophy. They are in fact reversing the evolution of the herd by removing the best from reproducing and leaving the sickly to reproduce. The wolf is a “medicine” to the herd keeping it strong and the “great hunters” are a poison to the herd weakening the stock. The way of living that reflected the way of Nature was both a cultural and religious socialization. When you call the Earth,” Mother”, you cannot mistreat her. When you know that you are suckled by the streams that run by your door you cannot destroy them. When you call all creatures brother and sister you fell obligated to care for them. This is right living. This is right relationship.

Science has been commandeered by business to perceive the world in terms of commodities and resources to serve the desires of whoever has the legal authority (power) or money (power). Decisions are made daily about the fate of our environment based on the concepts of corporate business practices. If our ecology were structured like our economy we would have destroyed the Earth aeons ago. Sadly, the trend is, in fact, the management of all life by twisted artificial business concepts. What if, this were reversed? What if, economy reflected ecology? Why does our National Health System make decisions based on shrinking budgets? What does money have to do with health? People can be educated beyond their understanding, beyond their common sense.

Herbalists are amongst the only remaining voices of reason and understanding in our increasingly commoditized world. In our work, we have the grand opportunity to re-introduce people to health by reintroducing them to healthy living. We give them plants from the Earth, respectfully collected, artfully processed, and wisely dispensed. We help our patients by teaching them a “way” of living healthy after we guide them out of the state that they have brought themselves to, which required our skills and leadership. The herbs are the intermediaries and interlocutors between our patients and the Earth. Herbalists are the voice for they that have no words. We herbalists are entrusted with a mighty responsibility in these hard times. Even as the forests are disappearing, knowledge of the old ways are disappearing too. We have been demoted, reviled, called names, burnt at the stake and excluded from the hospital wards but we will persist. Are not our favourite herbs called “weeds?” Are not our favourite herbalists like weeds? Some herbalists complain that there is no living in our trade. Now, more than ever, the world, the Earth, needs herbalists. There is more work than can be done unless we increase our number. By the way, what does all have to do with those two words in the title?