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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Spirituality, Food, Nature Intersect in Earth Stewardship

The ubiquitous image of a thriving garden in ancient stories from different places in the world fueled a sense of the sacredness not just of the heavens, but also of the places where people lived.

The human imagination has been fueled from the rich, nurtured soils of the rst farmers up through images of great feasts that can make a meal a divine experience.

In the modern era, Edenic fruits may seem to be limited to only a poet’s vision, and it might be tempting to sco at bucolic visions in this world of petrochemical factory farms and ongoing struggles to feed everyone.

e great irony continues to be that humans can, indeed, grow enough clean food for all, but di erences in understand- ing human rights, economics and land-use ethics prevent people from sharing this great gi of life.

The central conflict of The Epic of Gilgamesh pits the pride-filled, greedy and lustful King Gilgamesh against the harmonious order and humility of the natural human, Enkido. Gilgamesh is set on conquering and exploiting human beings and land alike, and Enkido is living close to the earth and cherishing kinship with the animals around him. e vast majority of sacred tales remind us that human beings have limits and need to live in harmony with plants, animals, people and the spirits around them.

So as people strive to eat cleanly, locally and sustainably, what is it from those ancient visionaries that they can reclaim for the modern world, for the front yards and city plots as well as the vast breadbasket farms of the Great Plains? Here are some spiritual factors to consider when putting food on the table and savoring each meal.

Consciousness. Pay attention to nature’s pace: sunrise to sunset, season to season, year to year. Live close to the elements, keeping in mind the sensitivity of the youngest baby and the fragility of the eldest people.

Harmony. Share meals in daily routines within seasonal rhythms. ese rituals may be kept as a spiritual practice with children and at the home table.

Family. Be together in the home from birth to death; cooking and managing a household is the true “real time” with family. Daily work and daily bread carry the sacred weight and value given to them.

Traditional wisdom. Share stories from all cultures that help to teach, encourage and inspire working for harmony and justice in the food world. ese wisdom stories transcend place and time, and are a legacy of truth to discover one’s part in the cycles of life.

Interdependence. Regard the earth as a living organism. From astrophysics to evolutionary biology, humankind’s contemporary story echoes the ancient stories of connectedness and relationship through time and space. ere is so much life in places seen and unseen; humans are but one small part.

Community. Become conscious of environmental impact, more conscious of how to live to continue to live. Become the “expert stewards” of the land, water and air.

Ethics and sustainability. Practice permaculture as a guiding philosophy. When the harm of something outweighs the long-term gain from it, it is best not to use it: plastic bags, nuclear energy, gas-guzzling pleasure vehicles, jetting about, heavy chemical farming that kills the soil. Decide with each use, asking what is the e ect of using this item on he earth and the people who grow it, package it and transport it.

Study open-minded wisdom. Read, and remember that wisdom has lived in the ancient cultures’ spiritual writings and that great writers persist today, warning and inspiring everyone to see all the world as family. Keep seeking the truth.

Recommended authors for further reading:

Henry David oreau, John Muir, Gandhi, Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, Loren Eisley, Msanobu Fukuoka, Sir Albert Howard, Rudolf Steiner, Wes Jackson, Mary Oliver, Annie Dillard, Gretel Erlich, Terry Tempest Williams, Barry Lopez, Gene Logsdon, David Kline, F.H. King, Stan Rowe, Wendell Berry and Bill McKibben
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