I spend a lot of time looking up at the stars at night. I always have, every since I was a child. At one time, I knew most of their names by heart, and where and when to find all the major constellations in the night sky.
Sometimes, I lament that I have forgotten a lot of that information. Over the long years, and the general busy-ness that comes with being an adult; many of those thoughts have atrophied from disuse and went elsewhere. I can still orient myself pretty well with the stars that speckle the night sky, but I don’t know them as well as I once did.
You might be wondering, what is the point of all this star-talk?
I want you to do something for me, I want you to follow this link and watch the four minute video. It really talks about our place in the greater universe, and it is really important to this conversation.
Really focus on the Cosmic Web idea, which they show in the video. In the event you don’t have time at the moment, here are two other images of the exact same thing.
The first, found here
And the second, from Wikipedia “Observable Universe”
Really look at the two images I have provided. What do you see? I see a countless number of connections between the galaxies that make up our universe. Do you remember the second part of animism as I described in The Beginning Place?
“In short, animism in the idea that the world is full of persons (most of which are non-human), and that life is lived in relation with others.”
Life is lived in relation with others, and relationships is what I want to talk about today. I also want to talk about cosmology, and so that is why I am starting off with a view of our known cosmos.
What does animism look like in practice, and how does it relate to the greater whole of the Cosmos? There is no single answer to this, because animism is a worldview more than anything, and I don’t think there is any one “right” way to do animism. With that in mind, I will tell you more about how I “do” animism.
Look at the cosmic web again. The “threads” of that web are the connections we all share as part of a network. In a very physical sense, it is the cycles of matter and energy that connect us to one another. On a much more local scale, it is things like where our food comes from, how it gets to us; and the fuel and energy used to drive those systems. It also works on both a social and a metaphysical level; the relationships we build with one another, and with our spirits and guides as well.
In my current thinking about animism, it is a much more collective philosophy that really hinges on the complexity of things. More importantly, it focuses on the connections of “all the things”, and the the relationships they all have with one another. The web of relationships is really the heart of animism, and how we relate to one another and to everything else. In addition, it is not just a sheer quantity of relationships, but about the individual quality as well.
How I practice animism really requires that we look real hard at our relations and interactions with the world. It asks us to question how we relate with Earth as individuals, as societies, and as a budding planetary civilization.
On a purely physical level, we are connected to everything around us. At the very beginning of our known universe, the Big Bang gave way to hydrogen atoms, which formed stars, became water, became oceans, arranged into cells, and eventually became the trillions and trillions of cells that make up our bodies. Our bodies are constantly interacting with the environment; from the calcium in our bones to the proteins in our muscles and our brains. Those are the connections I am talking about. It gets even more complex when you add in social and metaphysical connections; for example when your world has a lot more people in it.
The “threads” that connect us together are way bigger than that too. They connect us to our greater civilization, and to the natural ecosystems that surround it. My animism means we live in a networked environment, and everyday we are interacting with that. This is not to say for a second that all of our connections are healthy. That is not the case at all. Some relationships are downright toxic. Consider for a moment these relationships; (Content Warning)
- The relationship between two lovers
- The connection of our fossil fuel driven society and the planet
- The predator-prey relationship
- An abusive relationship
- The connection between a new farm and a destroyed forest
Threads and connections, but not all would I consider healthy.
The point is that we exist in a network with the whole of the Cosmos. On a personal level via my own networks, if you follow the threads long enough, I am connected indirectly to every other human on this planet. It gets even more interesting when you figure I am also related (as part of the human family) to every person on this planet too. More so, if you realize that every single species on this planet also has a common ancestry.
It’s fascinating to think about, when you reach out and grab one of those threads, you are connecting yourself to the whole of the Cosmos.
In a very real and grand sense, every rock, every bird, every fish, is in fact a distant relative. But more than that, every planet, every star, every galaxy in this cosmos shares common connections to the very start of our universe.
It’s like if you grabbed a hold of a single thread in the Cosmic Web, and pulled hard enough, you’d find yourself tugging on every single thing in existence.
That is what my animism looks like.
Does that make you feel small? It makes me feel small. It is really easy I think to get lost in the grand scheme of things. So let’s bring things down to a little more “human scale” for a moment.
Have a look at this for a moment. Instead of the entirety of our universe, take three minutes and look at this video from the International Space Station;
In the event you are still in a hurry; here is a brief shot from that same source;
(Found on Google, from the video above. I call one of these states home. “Hint, it’s Michigan.”)
It is fascinating for me to consider how much our cities from space look a little bit like the Cosmic Web we started with. You see, we moved from the very large to something much more human sized. We have followed those common threads that connect together my own animistic practice.
As such, I have brought together the two big segments of how I define animism. That the world is full of people, and that life is lived in relationship to others. In forthcoming posts, we will really be getting into some specifics of what those relationships might look like. I’m going to be expanding on this in my next post. So, here are a few questions I want you to consider.
- What do the relationships look like in your own life?
- How do you connect with the humans around you?
- How do you connect with the non-humans (nature) around you?
- Do you think you can improve those relationships?
Thanks for reading!
I have talked about these topics before on my personal blog, The Thought Forge.
(I may be cross-posting a few of these here in the near future.)