The image above is of what may be the oldest known carpet, the Pazkyryk rug, perhaps 2500 years old. A substantial part is missing, but most of it remains, enough so that much can be learned from what is left. From a study of the incomplete carpet many experts believe it was woven in ancient Armenia, a remarkable idea given it was found in a tomb located in what is now Siberia. We can also examine the source of the dyes used to color the wool, and, again, much can be discovered about those times from what remains.

Last month Karen and I camped in our van on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. Two hundred thousand acres of national forest were clearcut there years ago, and the practice continues to this day on state and private lands. Luckily, a sense of what the peninsula was once like is still provided by Olympic National Park, with it’s old growth ecosystem more or less intact. The experience of being under the big trees, the immense quiet, the depth of that green world, is still alive in the park. Though so much outside the park’s boundary has been damaged beyond repair one can still have a profound experience of the natural world within the part that remains.

Often, though, the fragments that remain of something in the past are too few, too disconnected, and too incomprehensible to provide more than a sense of wonder and mystery about what once was. We now live in a time where change is accelerating at a fantastic rate, and with this naturally comes an accelerating fragmentation of so much of value. Recognizing this, we might wish to make sure certain things, be they ideas or objects, are saved for future generations. Sadly, we have been in the current of this era of discontinuous change for so long that so much has already been lost. So what is still available and worthy of being saved, not only personally, but as part of our culture, or our neighborhoods, or of a practical knowledge based on something from before, something that has been passed down over generations? It is a real question for our time.

Is it also possible that, not only are the outer forms changing, but the very inner reality that creates and processes the outer forms might also be in jeopardy. This seems to me to be an even graver danger. If a young mind is changed by a large amount of screen time on a phone, isn’t it possible that all of our minds might now be changing in certain ways of cognition not yet understood, due not only to technology, but to all of the effects of modernity? Changing in the very way a person sees reality, and thus the way that their whole life is experienced. Old ways of discernment might someday no longer even be available to us, no matter how hard we try. Saving some attribute of those old times may itself become less and less useful, for although a part of the thing itself can be saved, our impression of it cannot be the same as it once was for humans, our minds having become incapable of such a way of perception. Could the result be that one day the modern world will have changed us from what a human once was? Part of the human experience would then become unavailable, and would remain so forever.

Finally, though, there is something else. Throughout time human beings have had an innate capacity to be receptive to a current from an entirely different level. A current that is called sacred. We do not know what it is about the construction of a human that allows this possibility. And, not knowing, perhaps we are truly in grave danger. Will we become so inwardly fragmented and then reconstructed in such a way that this connection is no longer possible? Or, hopefully, will we, like the rug of Pazkyryk, still retain enough of our original structure to continue to have the possibility of a connection with something higher, at least for a little while longer? If so, it is then more necessary than ever that authentic teachings about this possibility are embraced, nourished and guarded. For it may be that this time is not only one of great danger for our existing society, but one of danger for so much more than that.

Comments are welcome.



  1. I love this piece of writing so much. It seems to be what I’m noticing too. I walk in a part of the world that was once wild with ancient trees in the outwash prairie of Mt. Ranier but now it’s chopped into subdivisions which murder the soul. Still, as an explorer, I have found a network of ancient cedars who somehow survived the bulldozer, and I see them related to each other, holding the space as the carpet holds the space of the whole, yet with pieces missing. I gather blackberries among their feet, and give thanks for their presence and wisdom and witness. What is valued is tended, and I like to think that by noticing, tending, honoring the small bits of wild I can somehow energetically make space for their existence. My work on air helped teach me about the great forces that exist that don’t give a hoot about the sacred, and so I have been humbled in the face of worship of money and what that does to ecosystems and families and health and healing. But somehow, the flame of connection to Presence through this sense of wonder in the deep forest is still there, still feeding me even though it’s not pristine. I can see it, the past forest, and find my way back. I breathe. I carry the vision forward. I remember in my bones. I give thanks for what is left. I also wonder about this re-wiring of the brain. I think something fundamental is happening to us all, both externally on the planet and internally in the human mind. Our limbic systems are on tilt, and humanity is being asked to face what fear does to us, and find a way through. It’s a tough ask to evolve through this time. But we are wired to adapt, evolve, and renew. I don’t want to sit down and throw in the towel just yet. I love the power of imagination, the power of mind, the power of earth and the intersection of all that. How might the earth be re-imagining humans? I think she gets a say-so in this deal. Thanks for the great thought piece today.

  2. A great reply, Patti. I hope everyone on the blog reads what you just wrote. I love your words, “How might the earth be re-imagining humans?” It is a point of view of great hope, and the perfect counterpoint to what I offered. May we one day we be able to continue the conversation in person. Thanks so much.

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