Biology vs. Biography - Epiphany 1 of 2009

It hasn't taken me long to experience my first epiphany of 2009. During a recent interview I was asked several questions which I answered separately and honestly.  Afterward I was re-thinking my answers and realized what I multiple-personality-disorder I must sound like.  My life, and therefore my past, has been so bifurcated! On one side I have the genealogy of being a descendant of James Cahill who was on the boat with George Washington - that family declined through the years but made a comeback in the 1900's with entrepreneurial spirit, that was my paternal grandfather's paternal side.  All of my birth father's half brothers went to college or an official trade school and had careers.  One of them is a multi-millionaire.  So I was the 2nd generation of college graduates on that particular branch of the family.   Above: Here is a photo of my father (Walter Hugh Creekbaum, born 1941) with his parents: Mabel (Wiatt) (Creekbaum) Barlow and Emery Wilson Creekbaum, born 1917.  Mabel and Emery divorced before Walter's 1st birthday.  They both married again and had many half-siblings for Walter.  He was shuttled back and forth his entire childhood.  This impacted his life to this day. Flip this to my maternal grandparents, my maternal aunts and uncles, and you have a completely different story.  Also, my own parents divorced before I was a year-old and I was only sporadically exposed to this educated branch (although I saw my paternal grandfather and his wife once in a while, my father's half-siblings on that side never went out of their way to maintain contact with my sister and me while we were children).  Anyway, on the maternal side I do not know of one of the previous generations' college education.  I have one uncle that was brave enough to leave Indiana and have a great career in the Navy and I am sure he received lots of training there.  However, to my knowledge it was the generation of children born in the '60's and 70's (my generation) who first attended, and graduated, college.  Many of us attended only as adults after starting our families.   Yet, I have this far reaching experience from my Unce Jimi Barlow and (the late) Aunt Karen Barlow Alexander, my birth father's half-siblings on his mother's side.  They were both educated right out of high school and showed my sister and I the greater world.  From an early age I can remember staying with them and reading great classics.  My birth father, though he did not attend college, is extremely intelligent and is a voracious reader.  I spent many Summers of my late youth and teenagers years living with them and experiencing the lives of educated, career-paced individuals. To the left is a photo of a typical Sunday afternoon at the farm of maternal GRANDFATHER, Stephen E. Abernathy.  Many cousins frolicked and wreaked havoc on the 52 acre farm in rural, west-central Indiana.  This is about half the Abernathy siblings and half the offspring.  Center is Grandpa, in his 'bibs' - a WWII hero how took custody of my mother and her three siblings when he returned from Germany.  As a toddler to early teen, my mother was raised by a stepmother who died when she was was a teen.  Soon after, her birth mother died and she had never been allowed a private visit.  After Grandpa's last marriage, adding in a few more siblings - the total was 13.  Mother moved out upon her 18th birthday.  Married at 19.  Had my sister at 20.  Since then she has worked non-stop.     I don't know exactly where this leads me, but recognizing the vastly opposing history of my familial branches really struck a chord with me.  I feel I may be a good example of the balance of the auto-didactic and the formally educated.  Each approach enhances the other.  While I deeply regret my adult $20,000 student loans, I would never trade that mere piece of paper for my mountain of knowledge that I learned through the curiosity of a creative mind. Above right, is the photograph taken in 1981 during my sister and my visit to Texas, where all of Mabel's family and offspring had relocated at that time.  From left to right: Uncle Jimi Barlow, an award winning journalist (Walter's half-brother), my sister Lisa (before her Sr. Year of High School), Aunt Karen (Barlow) Alexander, a speech therapist and author who died of breast cancer five years ago (Walter's half-sister), me at age 12 (I am hiding a cast and had 50 plus stitches in my head from a three wheeler accident that morning, I think I was high on Tylenol 3!), my birth father, Walter Hugh Creekbaum - he lived in TX for several years before relocating to Bradenton, FL.   I pay homage to both sides of my genealogy.  These ancestors and recent life mentors have made me who I am today.  I appreciate my education, possibly more than those who felt they were 'owed' it, because I longed for and sacrificed to receive it. And I humbly thank the relatives that took the time and money to expose me to the wider world.  Perhaps they saw in that child, some potential for a better life.  Who I am - is equal parts biology and biography.  I continue reaching for balance in both areas and to pass along the beneficial lessons, while hoping the inheritance of broken families will not adversely effect my children. On the right - a photo of my sister, Lisa and me, probably taken Feb/March of 1968.  Right before our father left. Although I had a brief marriage in in the late 90's (1987-1990), I was lucky enough to get out of that situation and have now been with my husband, Don, for 18 years.  We have three children who are almost alone in their status of being raised by both their biological parents.   To the left is a beautiful picture of my mother - the resemblance is uncanny.  Here smile is still just as wide and warm and her eyes still sparkle. After a long life of working endless days she will be retiring in just a few weeks.  I am looking forward to seeing her for more fun times - hoping to take her to see Loretta Lynn's Museum and also go on an antiquing/quilt viewing trip to Paducah, KY. ---- I feel that I am amazingly OK given the broken branches of my family.  I hope I am reastablishing some nurturing roots for my children - understanding our histories is one step along the way to evolving and preventing damage. As I continue to untangle my roots, I do know that IT IS WELL, WITH MY SOUL - EVEN SO, IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL.
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Eco-Psychology and its Importance in Creating Inter-World Balance

The greatest good is the knowledge of the union which the mind has with the whole of nature . . . ".  - Baruch Spinoza   By recognizing the inter-connectedness of the human mind/body with the whole of nature/universe/cosmos, humankind may achieve inner balance, physical health, and world peace.  Through the acknowledgment of an inter-connectness with our physical and metaphysical surroundings, humankind will reach and achieve conservation/preservation and provide nurturement to self, other humans, and animals, producing an effect which may reach to the depths of the ocean and rise past the stars. It is by enactment of a reciprocal relationship that our realities shall operate as a whole.  As each part cares and nurtures other parts, balance of the whole is attainable and sustainable.  All beings are irrevocably connected to nature; it is the recognition of such a connection which will instigate the healing process needed to restore inter-world balance. Through a joining together of previously segregated fields (ecology and psychology), ecopsychology delves into the roots of humankind's attitude towards "nature" and "nature's" attitude toward humankind.  By assigning equal weight to each entity, the search is on for understanding regarding the give and take of this previously disregarded relationship by the "scientific" and "religious" communities.  By previously and continously encouraging a separation of science and religion and by segregating separate fields of study within each arena, we are only now understanding that such a disparity has been harmful to the whole.  Modern consideration towards an inter-connectedness in the sciences and ecumenical religious practices has opened the floodgates for a new Zeitgeist to formulate.  This new "spirit of the times" is inclusive of ecopsychology. Several fields of study are inclusive of the broad term of ecopsychology: ancient philosophies, anthropology, architecture, behavorial ecology/analysis/geography, community studies, cybernetics, deep ecology, developmental psychology, eastern views/religions, ecofeminism, ecology, environmental education and justice, evolutionary psychology, horticultural therapy, indigenous world views, mythology, psychoneuroimmunology, paganism, psychotherapy, quantum physics, religious/theological perspectives, spiral dynamics, "Romantic" studies, sociobiology, systems theory, and wilderness therapy.  Many more studies are off-shoots or natural progressions of the above listing. Studies in ecopsychology ask the following questions: How can our sense of self be seen through the natural world and our connection in/on it?  Why do humans seek communion with nature and what do they receive from said communion?  In what ways are humans benefited by contact with nature and, conversely, is nature benefited by human contact? Further delving presents even more disturbing/thought-provoking considerations:  Does our current ideology and our current ways of learning and knowing lead us to a balanced inter-world relationship?  If not, how might we as a technologically based culture adapt our future behavior and learning systems to embrace mutual respect and a healthful relationship within our natural world? To truly embrace the concept of inter-world (all things, all forces, all time and matter) relatedness, one must reach a cognitive understanding of the effects of our current multi-faceted stance:  Our quest for sentience reaches back in time.  Prior to the scientific fields of research, human kind searched the skies above and looked to the seas below for answers to their queries. Levels of existence fight for survival, which implies a revolt agasint physical threats and a questioning of purpose.  Even the "lowly" sea anemone, considered a "plant" by most, can lift itself from the ocean floor and pulsate its form through the water in search of a "safer" location from predators (see, "Life at the Edge of the See", PBS Documentary).  Rather than simply "survival of the fittest," ecopsychology views these acts as deliberate.  Humankind's need to understand and know that which simply is, takes us back to the mythical alchemical snake which bites its own tail (Roszak 2). By accepting that there is more to the self than the physical individual and by recognizing the self's connection as being part of something bigger, one can interpret and understand the "quest" and need for religious/spiritual direction.  The principles of ecopsychology provide ways of the self to understand that part of us which is MORE THAN SELF. Jung's theory of the collective unconscious has been expanded to being part of an ecological unconscious (interchangeable with inter-world).  By maintaining an open and reciprocal relationship with the inter-world, humankind and individuals will experience and maintain physical and emotional well-being.  Such a resolution would cure the collusive madness caused in part by our modern, technologically driven, industrial society. Complexity of nature can be understood through the study of new cosmology.  By answering questions through a relation of inter-connectedness, benefits sought by individual fields can be applied to other fields.  (Such as, researching biographical emotional causes of dis-EASE in the human mind to cure a biological physical ailment). Connected, by Sher Fick (8"w x 16"h) Encaustic, paper, attachments), 2006 By encacting therapies to reconnect the current urban psyche with the repressed ecological uncounscious; by researching and reviving ancient earth cult rituals, wilderness therapies, and so forth, the individual experiences personal and reciprocal interaction within the natural world - thus reintegrating the individual with the ecological unconscious.  Distressed people can easily find surcease in the healing effect of wilderness.  A recent survey concluded that: 16 out of 17 individuals practiced visualization therapy by imagining themselves in some "natural" locations which included: 12 aspects of water, 15 various patterns of sounds of nature, and 1 "silence of nature."  The participants were a diverse group of individuals with varying religious and environmental backgrounds and beliefs.  Yet, more often than not, all sought communion with nature to "quiet their soul."  An additional benefit to literal wilderness therapy is the physical well-being found in exerting our bodies while on our "journey" towards a specific sight in nature.  The psychological benefits of the peaceful environment and the feelings of self-esteem when successfully reaching a challenging location are notable as well.  This benefit in our individual "self-perception" cannot be ignored.  By focusing inward during wilderness therapy we can easily avoid the outer stresses of our daily lives - much in the same ways we "escaped reality" as children. Through the encouragement of recovering children's innate animistic attitude towards nature in our "adult" experiences (by practicing natural mysticism in religion and art) a healthy ecological ego can be recovered and, therefore, nurtured in our youth.  As children, many of us ESCAPED FROM REALITY through play outdoors.  By leaving behind the challenges and responsibilities of home, school, and church, children were revitalized and calmed by their discoveries and interaction within nature.  Nature did not judge them, but became a teacher and care giver.  Children learn sensory truths and connect to a global life community.  Children view nature as "families" and seek to re-integrate and restore balance in their natural activities.  A four-year old child once stated "this baby rock belongs with that mama and papa rock, it got lost."  So, too, has humankind been "lost" from their connection with their earth parents. After the previous principles have been enacted a natural evolution of attitude shall occur.  The maturation of our ecological egos will foster eco-responsibilities which will manifest in our government, society, and personal lives.  Nature is to humankind as our arm is to our body.  Unless one is suffering from a form of autophobia, one does not hurt one's own arm.  Therefore, as we care for, nurture, and feed our own body through practicing autophilia (self love), one should care for, nurture, and feed our larger "world" through biophilia (earth love). We shall at this point, as a joined culture, re-awaken our "feminine" nurturing attitude towards nature and move away from the current "domination" practiced by current political practices, urban development, corporate industry, and religious dogma.  Ecofeminism will grow into a naturally developing occurence.  By balancing the GIVE and TAKE in a balanced manner, the earth and our "universe" shall reciprocate.  The simple act of communicating WITHIN nature - leaving behind less of a human mark than when we arrived - is an act of biophilia. Rather than being an ANTI-industrial/technological theory, ecopsychology is a POST-industrial/technological theory.  By recognizing some of the damage done by our techno age, but lauding the beneficial discoveries,the practice of ecopsychology in our human everyday lives is simply a natural, ideological evolution of human world view. Humankind is enacting the seminal/transitional phase wherein a renewed quest for a re-awakened "search for the holy grail" shall occur.  As our current techno-world emerges from its self-induced darkness of the soul, our collective search for wholeness shall heal the planet, our larger "cosmos," as well as our inner selves.  The denial of the existence of inter-world relatedness does not mean it is not there. In conclusion, Roszak states" "The needs of the planet are the needs of the person, the rights of the person are the rights of the planet" (Roszak 5).  By encouraging a synergistic approach to our life experiences, we connect with the divine and the divine connects with us. WORKS CITED: Cleary, Thomas (translator).  The Essential Tao (an initiation into the heart of Taoism through the authentic TAO TE CHING and the inner teachings of Chuang Tzu).  New York, Castle Books, 1992. Cowan, James G.  Letters from a Wild State (rediscovering our true relationship to nature).  New York, Bell Tower.  1991. Durant, Will.  The Story of Philosophy (the lives and opinions of the world's greatest philosophers from Plato to John Dewey).  Washington, Square Press.  1961. Ehrmann, Max.  The Desiderata of Happiness (a collection of philosophical poems).  New York, Crown Publishers.  1995. Quinn, Daniel.  Ishmael (an adventure of the mind and spirit).  New York/Turner.  1992. Roszak, Theodore.  The Voice of the Earth.  New York, Simon & Schuster.  1992.  Ecopsychology: Eight Principles at the ECO-PSY web page, 11/29/00, copyright 1998. Szymborska, Wislaw.  View with a Grain of Sand (selected poems).  New York, Harcourt Brace.  1995. Zimmerman, M.; Callicott, J; Sessions, G; Warren, K; and Clark, J.  Environmental Philosophy (from animal rights to radical ecology).  Second Edition.  New Jersy, Prentice Hall.  1998.
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Essay: Anthropocentrism v. Ecocentrism

  Left - Ephemeral EarthWork created at Grand Canyon, 2001 by Sher Fick When considering the effects of anthropocentrism versus ecocentrism one must reflect upon societies which based their communal existence on either and compare the two.  We know that originally, all humans were ecocentric in their manner of living in communion with the earth and, literally, worshiped the ground from whence they emerged.  Anthropologists note the major shift from the "earth mother" native cultures occurred when communities became tied to one piece of earth and to agricultural development.  The agriculturalist belief system spread and conquered surrounding societies to fulfill their need for food and shelter. Continuing the agricultural movement has led to the now coined "techno-man" (see, philosopher Sam Keen) who seeks to conquer even the world in which we live.  The techno-men propose ways in which to prevent natural catastrophes (for example, proposing to hang a 2-mile wide mirror in space to reflect the sun onto the ocean surfaces to warm water to prevent hurricanes).  Maybe the hurricanes are Mother Nature's way of getting rid of fleas off her back, a type of population control.  It might be brutal, but so is birth and death, a natural life cycle. While some advances are clearly beneficial to humankind (eradication of small pox and polio for example) and improve our quality of life, it is unknown what the ultimate outcome of technology shall be.  Considering the atomic bomb, which has killed thousands of people and destroyed acres of nature, to be a beneficial technology seems rather ludicrous as the technological aim is supposed to be improving upon nature, not destroying it. It is the man-centered technologist who is making advances without due consideration to the world population as a whole.  It is a dreadful gift to create something which leads to ultimate destruction of any being.  This changes the creator into a destroyer.  If man's legacy upon this earth is measured only by his technical creations, we see that more has been destroyed than "created" in the last two hundred years. An emotional wound is also left by this worship of technology over the natural world.  We view the phenomenon of serial killers and rapists in particular, most who profess a need to "overpower" the weaker individuals in an effort to prove their own superiority.  The belief systems have been inbred from childhood in the grand hierarchy of abuse - - - father abuses son, son abuses smaller children, smaller children abuse animals, so on and so forth, each generation increasing its abuse and victims evolving into abusers.  The grand pecking order of the anthropocentric belief system does not allow for empathy and compassion to any other individual, unless it serves one man's needs, let alone extending to women, animals, and the earth. For thousands of years before techno/anthropocentric man, ecocentric humans inhabited our earth, communing with nature and surviving in a peaceable manner.  Communities moved with the seasons, gathered together when desired, yet left what they did not need.  The Kouri (Australian Aboriginal people) still live today the way they did for thousands of years.  The earliest art known is found in an Australian cave, dating back 14,000 years.  For millenniums the dreamtime tales have been passed down through verbal records, the same manner of building, harvesting and art making have continued unchanged.  Who has the right to say "This is not the right way," certainly not anyone outside of their culture.  Yet they have been dwindled in number down to only a few thousand, pushed time and time again from their ancient lands, forced to live on the outskirts of their sacred earth and ancestral dwelling places, to view in horror as "modern man" destroys the tundra and thousands of its species.  Native Americans have lived this same experience. Anthropocentrism has all but killed out the ancient ecocentric way of life.  Only recently has the negative effects of anthropocentrism (war, bigotry, massive consumption of natural resources, etc.) become apparent to the general public and the positive effects of ecocentrism has made it to the forefront (complementary medicine, benefits of cultural diversity, conservation of nature, animal rights, etc.).  Not until the balance has been reached between the two will the outcome be known. We have the power and technology with which to destroy ourselves and our planet, it is yet to be seen whether or not we have the power and technology to save ourselves and our planet. written March 1999, Ethics Class with Dr. Dirk Dunbar, copyright Sher Fick
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