The weather turned cold, freezing remnants of precipitation on the roads and quickly frosting them with freshly falling snow. Around this time, motorists begin to be cautious when operating their vehicles. Cars spin their wheels when they take off from a stop which they nearly didn’t to come to gently in the first place. The weather reports light up television and phone screens all over the region, bringing dreadful apprehensiveness into the hearts of all those leaving the coddling warmth of their house.
I have a very limited skill set, but one of the few things in which I’ve acquired a moderate level of mastery is bipedal travel. The bodies of organisms are the true all-terrain vehicles of the world. No matter the obstacle or the weather, chances are a person can get through it. When you’re cranking your defroster, downshifting to keep your vehicle under control, don’t be surprised if you see me bopping along at a comparatively slow, but steady cadence anywhere or anytime.
With this ability comes a substantial amount of freedom of geographical mobility. A person on foot does not have to respect the barriers of pavement. Exercising my natural given right to go wherever my feet can take me has cultivated my spirit to have a generous level of respect and sense of stewardship for all the places to which I enjoy carrying myself.
Yet, those who choose to limit their explorative capabilities seem to have a lack of respect for we who do not. If they had their way, we would probably be detained in boxes like they are. Our fun would be restricted and never transcend the limitations which they imposed upon themselves.
This Monday, my teammates and I were on a training run in a Beachwood neighborhood. A gate lay blocking the path of any cars wishing to breech the community limits. Our feet were not restricted by the limits of that gate so we went through it. An angry Judi Dench look-alike drove by us with her car, indignantly telling us to get off this private property and eventually calling the police. After a few word exchanges, we left and carried about our business elsewhere. Of course, the land was private and the laws side with Judi Wench. However, we were not disrupting a thing, only using a prime mile-long loop.
To my knowledge, in no Native American language does there exist a word or phrase for owning a piece of the Earth. The landing of the Puritans in the 1600s brought such a concept to the continent. The indigenous peoples struggled to fully grasp this idea. Many conflicts ensued, carrying into the successive centuries, peaking with the Indian Wars of the 19th century.
Though not nearly as extreme, I find similarities in the relationship between the Native Americans and immigrant populations. The lands of the western tribes were desirable to lay railroad track and farm; both are destructive activities, stripping the land of its natural characteristics and imposing the idea of private ownership upon the native cultures who thrived on this land for hundreds or thousands of years. These tribal nomads (not restricted by geographical place) did so by respecting the bountiful sphere which sustained them; the relationship was reciprocal.
We are all citizens of the Earth. The Earth is not ours, we are the Earth’s. Recognition of this fact obligates respect and stewardship for the land we use and share; such is required for survival. Those who revel in the empowering sensations of unrestricted exploration are more likely to feel responsible for sustaining the things which sustain their happiness. Those pretentious folk, feeling entitled to a private plot of ground, seem to indirectly promote disrespect for all pieces of the planet. When there is a shared responsibility for something, there is increased incentive to maintain it. Losing grasp of this is a huge contributor to the environmental problems we face today.
When we are not respectful of those with whom we are jointly responsible for the most fundamental source of our life, how then can we best care for the only home we have within lightyears?