Compost: Where Everyday is Earth Day
If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Jnana’s Red Barn then I hope you will consider taking a quick field trip there. He writes many thoughtful posts but his recent Composting as Prayer gave me an excuse to think about how and why composting just feels so right.
First: some show and tell. My son takes care of a red wiggler worm bin. He kindly donates the worm castings to the various ongoing garden projects here. It amazes me that even this simple system holds hidden complexities. And if a tiny cycle like this is complex I can’t even conceive of the true grandeur of an entire functioning ecosystem — let alone this magnificent planet.
Here is a picture of a red wiggler egg. In the background you can see how rich and dark the worm castings are.
In this next picture one of the worm tails is waving hello or more likely goodbye:
The Great Chain of Being
Back during the middle ages when I went to Catholic school we were taught the concept of the Great Chain of Being. (Hate to age myself but the truth sometimes must be revealed.) Basically, the idea was that all of creation was balanced in a kind of hierarchy. God resided at the top. Rocks and the stuff of the earth kind of squatted on the bottom rung. Between the rocks and God (in ascending order) were: humans, demons and angels.
This paradigm of seeing the world as a hierarchy influenced Western civilization in endless ways — most of which we are probably not even aware of though I believe we remain firmly within its grasp.
The hierarchy of being & becoming was first devised by Aristotle and then endlessly tinkered by others. Within each category people would sometimes get fancy and create more divisions. For example, in the category of people — well — let’s be honest: it was called “men” there were many layers or slices. In one formulation the queen was placed at the top in a throne held by her nobles who were balanced on the shoulders of the commoners. Let’s hope those nobles were not wearing stiletto heels. The great chain was also a handy device used to justify sexism: men were ‘obviously’ above women. It did triple duty justifying racism: people with lighter complexions were closer to the clouds of heaven while those with darker skin were closer to the earth.
Throughout this entire way of seeing the world one “fact” was a given: the lowliest facet was the earth itself. That is why even today people associate the earth with words like filth, muck or dirt. We try to get our minds out of the gutter and rise up to greatness. The metaphors are endless and a testament to how pervasive the idea of hierarchies are in this culture of Western civilization.
Sad but true, the great chain of being provides the seed or maybe the fertilizer for almost all of the major problems/issues of our world today. I can’t help but wonder what the result would have been if Aristotle pictured a different metaphor. A spider web. A fishing net. A crystal. A harmony. A jigsaw puzzle. Or a loaf of bread.
Soil is Sacred
I am not using the word ‘sacred’ here in a connection with God but maybe more in the sense of something worthy of veneration or respect.
Imagine a world where instead of despising and depleting our soil we could have spent these centuries creating monuments and lasting works of art like the Amazon basin garden. Remember all those stories you’ve heard about the poverty of rainforest soil? “Worst soil ever,” according to the Comic Store Guy. The truth is much more complicated. Without human assistance all the nutrients do wash away. But with human assistance something like terra preta do índio can be created instead. This soil is so healthy that hundreds of years later it continues to be fertile even when it has been abandoned. In essence, the aboriginal people created an immense self sustaining forest garden centuries before western cultures were even aware that sustainability could be a problem. That is the kind of footprint I think humans were meant to leave. Aristotle was wrong. Heaven isn’t above the clouds; it resides beneath our feet.