Connections

NOTE: this short essay was written several years ago in response to a prompt from Orion Magazine. If you are interested in the interactions between humans, culture and the environment, be sure to check out www.orionmagazine.org.

While on my lunch hour the other day I read each essay in Orion’s special section: “What the World Needs Now.” My initial response upon reading the introduction was, “No way! There can’t be ONE answer.” I was disappointed that Orion, a magazine I typically read for the depth of its articles, was oversimplifying the issue.

My mind was put at ease when I realized that each of the dozen writers had formulated a unique response. Each author did an excellent job of relating personal experiences and world events to support their claim for “What the World Needs Now.” Satisfied with the essays, I filed away the thoughts and went back to work.

A few days later I was out at Myakka River State Park running a 12-mile loop trail. Since I was preparing for an upcoming adventure race, I was wearing my small backpack and pushing hard despite the 90-degree heat and the harsh sun. Sometimes while trail running I get caught up in the flow of the action-eyes scanning the trail ahead, feet and legs adjusting to keep me from stumbling over roots or ruts. Other times, my eyes wander across the palmetto prairie or through the shaded clearing of an oak hammock-spying the white rump of a deer or two leaping into the thicker brush. Often, I think.

What came to mind during the “thinking phase” of this run was “What the World Needs Now” and if there really was one answer, one impulse, that if acted upon would change our relationship to each other and to the natural world. All the responses in the magazine seemed valid-but they only seemed like parts of the whole.

One of the things I enjoy about running in the woods is knowing that I’m training in an oxygen-rich environment-my lungs and muscles aching for and eagerly sucking in the by-product of all that plant biomass. But it’s not just the positive way the oxygen affects my physiology that matters-it’s the way it affects my worldview. A few years ago while teaching Environmental Studies as an adjunct at a local college a student shared something that immediately heightened my awareness. She said that all things-people, plants, animals-share the air we breathe and conscious breathing is a great way to demonstrate the ecological notion of connectivity. It was a major moment of clarity for me.

I often think on this while I’m running through the woods-drawing power not just from the oxygen my lungs are extracting but from the connectivity I feel with the saw palmettos, the live oaks, the deer, the armadillos. On this particular run, while drenched in sweat, my legs covered with soot from a recent controlled burn, bounding from rut to root, it hit me that what was missing from the “What the World Needs Now” essays was “connectivity”.

As isolated values or actions, honor, wonder, simplicity, listening, hardness, love, responsibility, resolution, subtlety, grace, militancy, and a parable, have tremendous merit. But, like individual species, or individual beings, in the natural world, the true insight rests in recognizing the relationships between things-the realization that NOTHING exists in isolation from the thoughts or actions of another.


One Response to “Connections”

  1. Hi Kip,

    I hope everything is going well for you. I ran into Aaron at an AR at Myakka a couple of weeks ago and he told me about you and Jessica. I am really sorry to hear that.

    I am planning to ride the GDMBR starting in July and I need a good headlamp. Can you recommend one?

    Thanks,

    Jim Septer
    352-843-1535

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