The Big Old Oak Tree
Derrick Jensen book called What We Leave Behind, is about what we leave behind. It is a devastating critique of our culture's treatment of the natural world, on which all of life depends.
What We Leave Behind focuses on our culture's waste products. Until fairly recently in the history of the planet, the waste of one living thing became the food of another living thing; a tree drops its leaves and the dead leaves are broken down by various processes and living creatures to become the nutrient-rich forest floor, a lion kills a gazelle and the scraps are eaten by hyenas --- a human dies and the body is returned to the earth's natural processes, and all life is better off for it - "healthier, stronger, more resilient, more diverse."
However, we started producing waste products that no living thing can break down, which means they are essentially poisonous. Sea creatures starve to death with their bellies full of plastic.
Jensen writes, "This culture is killing the planet. This culture is killing the planet. This culture is killing the planet."
Jensen is not negative; the culture that he is criticizing is negative. Jensen is angry...
The Big Old Oak Tree quotes the Powhatan-Renape-Lenape man Jack Forbes:
The life of Native American peoples revolves around the concept of sacredness, beauty, power, and relatedness of all forms of existence. In short the "ethics" or moral values of Native people are part and parcel of their cosmology or total world view.
Most Native languages have no word for "religion" and it may be true that a word for religion is never needed until a people no longer have "religion."
As Ohiyesa (Charles Eastman) said,
"Every act of his [the Indian's] life is, in a very real sense, a religious act."... "Religion," is, in reality, "living." Our "religion" is not what we profess, or what we say, or what we proclaim; our "religion" is what we do, what we desire, what we seek, what we dream about, what we fantasize, what we think - all of these things - twenty-four hours a day."
One's religion, then, is one's life, not merely the ideal life but the life as it is actually lived.... Religion is not a prayer, it is not a church, it is not "theistic," it is not "atheistic," it has little to do with what white people call "religion"
It is our every act. If we tromp on a bug, that is our religion. If we experiment on living animal, that is our religion: if we cheat at cards, that is our religion; if we dream of being famous, that is our religion; if we gossip maliciously, that is our religion; if we are rude and aggressive, that is our religion. All that we do, and are, is our religion. (pg. 154)
What would it look like if I did my best to make everything I do an expression of the "sacredness, beauty, power, and relatedness of all forms of existence"?
Update, 3/9/11: Jensen shares authorship with Aric McBay, creator of In the Wake: A Collective Manual-in-progress for Outliving Civilization.