Reanimating the world

When my mate, Will, and I got engaged, we decided to combine our last names to create a new one. My maiden name, Aldave, would donate the “Al,” retaining its pronunciation as “all,” and Will’s last name, Boykin, would donate the “kin” to create a new last name: Alkin.

Because it is presumed that the bride will take the groom’s name at the time of marriage, Will went through the legal process to change his name prior to our wedding so that I could take “his” name for free when we wed. Who can resist a two-for-one deal?

Will was the darling of the courtroom in Austin, Texas, the day he made an appearance to change his name. Applause broke out when he explained to the court why he wished to become an Alkin after a lifetime as a Boykin. Even the judge seemed pleased by Will’s petition; she herself had a lengthy hyphenated name.

We were drawn to the name Alkin because naming ourselves “kin to all” seemed a worthy aspiration. I didn’t realize at the time that taking on this new name would end my time in the Catholic church. Nor did I realize that our last name suggests the spiritual path that claims me now.  

Animism is the worldview that gives rise to shamanism. In the words of Graham Harvey: “Animists are people who recognize that the world is full of persons, only some of whom are human.”

With the ancient understanding that animals are “people,” thunderstorms are “people,” mountains are “people,” beings in the spirit world are “people,” and viruses are “people,” the task falls to us to communicate and bargain with these various kinfolk of ours, hear their desires and grievances, balance competing needs, and try to restore connection where the delicate web of right relationship has been torn.

Imbalance results from treating persons–cow, sky, mountain, ancestor, virus–as “things” to be exploited, used, or killed for our own ends. Our materialist mindset has deluded us into believing that we can grab whatever we want from one another and from the natural world without consequence. Trying to find toilet paper at Costco this week was a reminder of just how fearful and spiritually-impoverished we are as a people, myself included.

It takes time and effort to honor and romance these varied “persons” of our world, both seen and unseen. It is a huge task to begin addressing the energetic imbalances created over generations of grabbing instead of asking, of living in a state of greed instead of restraint. We have forgotten that reciprocal relationship with the “others” in our midst is not only possible, but a condition of our continued existence on the planet.

All journeys begin with a single step. By their very nature, first steps are small, humble, and not at all up to the larger task at hand. It takes a great deal of heart to begin.

How might you reanimate your life? What tangible step can you take? Drop me a line and let me know.

For me, now, I will spend time each day in my “sit spot” outside. This is how I will begin my journey of reanimating the world: visiting the same place in nature to quiet down, observe the change of seasons, and grow in intimacy with my backyard kin. I’ll let you know how it goes on the cold and rainy days to come.

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