Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Voice of the Earth

I'm reading currently The Voice of the Earth: An Exploration of Ecopsychology by Theodore Roszak, a truly stunning book. It is essentially a thesis stating that without an ecological framework (or, collective eco-consciousness) modern society sits in perpetual psychosis, much like during the Victorian era, as Freud wrote, repressed sexual desires lead to neurosis.

The book is supremely well written; a intellectually strong argument, with the poetry and heart of the earth ever present.

One passage that struck me in particular is when Roszak discusses Victor Frankl's contribution to modern psychology. Frankl, a survivor of Nazi concentration camps challenged psychology to take in the full horrific capabilities of man and to completely "revamp [our] understanding of the human condition... therapeutic business as usual would be cowardly."

Roszak likens this horrific landmark in our collective history to the one we currently face: the destruction and devastation of our planet.
Now we encounter another landmark in our exploration of the psyche, the most imposing thus far. We come upon it as our technological power attains global closure. What Auschwitz was to its human inmates -- an expertly rationalized, efficiently organized killing ground -- our urban-industrial system is fast becoming for the biosphere at large, and for ourselves as an inseparable part of that environment. The dimensions of psychiatric theory, and with them our understanding of our connection with all things human, nonhuman, and trans-human, must grow to include the planetary habitat as a whole. Once again to shrink from the challenge would be cowardice.
Reading this deeply affected me. This past summer I was traveling in Poland, rediscovering my roots, and I visited Auszwitz. The experience changed my life in a way that would be impossible to encompass on this blog. However, I will say that seeing and spatially placing that tragedy, which up until that point had been a surreal story from the past, made me feel morally responsible to carry that human possibility in my consciousness -- to never be willfully ignorant of the depravity that humans are capable of.

Understanding that it is a very sensitive subject, I cannot help but stand by Roszak's analogy. It is the same psychosis that allowed Auszwitz, that allows for the horrifying conditions of factory farmed animals. Regardless of whether animals or humans are "more important", to denigrate the majesty of earthy creation, in whatever form, to something so stark and mechanical breaks down the human spirit.

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