I was looking forward to seeing Epic, the new Disney movie, with my daughter in a way I hadn’t looked forward to a kid’s movie in a long time. I love a good nature story, and Disney always does a great job of creating beautiful imagery and fun stories. We enjoyed it. It was heaps of fun, although I cried terribly (much more than my kids) when Ronan was done for. But that probably says more about me and my life because I was still crying about that this morning when I woke up. Silly me. He was just a leaf man, after all.
But in truth, I was very disappointed in the premise of the story, which means, perhaps, I’m becoming disappointed in the premise of our whole story. All of it. And that is the “epic” story of good vs. evil. That ongoing war we keep fighting over and over and that no one ever really wins.
In the movies, it’s a lot easier to see—whether it’s black-and-white, color, or 3-D. The good guys are always Super Good. And the bad guys are always Super Evil. Every movie preview is a mini version, and we all know how it ends in popular movies. But seeing that story transferred to nature with “good” being growth and “evil” being decay is just plain wrong.
Last week at a Rodale Institute board meeting, we heard a presentation from our chief scientist Dr. Elaine Ingham about the life beneath the soil and how essential it is for our survival. Even just a tiny bit of education about nature makes it easy to see that the dance between growth and decay is a good thing. It’s a beautiful collaboration. A tree dies and falls over, and the microorganisms begin the process of breaking it down into rich fresh soil; meanwhile, it becomes a home to salamanders and toads and baby animals. All the things in nature that seem scary (spiders and snakes and ants and fungi) play a key role in transforming one thing into another thing. Dr. Ingham’s findings about the soil show that everything we need to create abundance is already in the soil, and the key to growth is protecting and supporting that growth by not over-tilling (think of it as destroying the homes of the creatures down below or a giant twister that comes through on a regular basis) or spreading toxic chemicals or fertilizers (think of it as waging chemical warfare on the civilians who are just trying to help us out and live a full life and raise their children peacefully). Nature is neither good nor evil; it just is beautiful in all its complex glory.
There was an interesting debate last week online about the killing of a soldier in the UK in retaliation for “terrorism” abroad. I don’t have an answer or an opinion other than to say that how we each define terrorism is relative to our own perspective. What seems good and evil in one country is completely different in another country’s perspective…and so it goes, on and on.
What’s the answer? Understanding. Education. Love. And the willingness to create a new story together that is just as thrilling and entertaining and distracting as the one about good vs. evil. I’m not sure what it is, but you can bet I’ll be thinking about it. And I hope you do, too.
I’ll end this with my favorite Rumi quote, which it turns out has more to it than what you see quoted all the time:
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I will meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.