I just saw the film “Elemental” and found it to be the most profound I have seen to date.   And I have seen a lot of documentaries and movies in my lifetime.

My heart broke open in witness to the lives of these 3 committed visionary people, and I cried more tears than would fill a tissue box.  Oh great, you say, why should I watch a film that will make me cry for 2 hours?  Possibly you won’t react the way I did.

Why do we turn away so easily at this tremendous grief we are going through as a nature-disconnected society?  I feel it is more important for us to allow ourselves to channel this grief through us.   And then stand.

The film does not point fingers, except possibly to the idea that corporations are NOT people and never will be.

The film ends in hope for solidarity, community action, and the power of reawakening the seed of caring for Mother Life within us.  It also acknowledges the complexities of our limited choices in our way of life.  If we need to pay rent, have a car, fly in an airplane, eat fast food (as even the activists in the film do), support ourselves in our nature-disconnected ways, how many choices do we really have?

As humans on a spinning piece of rock through the universe, if we need to do something about the atmosphere we are disrupting, this film includes one possible engineering biomimicry solution, but does not touch the foundation of the lifestyle that creates the pollution.  What choices do we really have short of changing our entire way of life and returning fully to nature’s patient support?  That’s too extreme, right?

Part of why this film touched my heart so deeply was my own experience of watching children go through treatment for cancers from possible environmental causes, and spending most of a year living among primarily Native Americans and Hispanic people from communities directly impacted by high chemical use and toxic dumping grounds.  While I was living communally with these folks 9 years ago, I was so convinced someone should be alerted to this “cluster” of childhood cancers I was seeing that I contacted a chief epidemiologist (folks who study disease patterns and causes in populations) at my local university to ask what he thought about the numbers I reported.  He responded that “clusters” are interesting phenomenon that are of little use to epidemiologists as far as cause and effect.

Even though I was shaking my head, I saw his point.  I do understand it would be nearly impossible to test for every toxin out there and determine cause and effects.  But living among this population forever changed my personal awareness of some of the issues facing indigenous populations and agricultural families.  And I did also live with a non-indigenous family who raised their child with cancer completely on well water, far away from a city, with only the best organic foods and no media.  So maybe the big picture is much more complex than we imagine.

The film reinforces all that I know about the healing power of nature and doing some tiny part to help people reconnect.  A hermit at the foot of the Himalayans probably said it best in the film when she spoke of good and evil coexisting and that as long as we do what we do for the love of nature and remain detached from the outcome, our efforts have some chance.  The day I break free of my own cubicle lifestyle that keeps me in the shelter/food/heat/transport game, I will finally be living in harmony with what I experience Earth is trying to tell me.  I wonder if this harmony is even possible anymore for any of us, but I know I have to try in small ways each day to touch it.


About Erin W

A sensitive plant, bamboo strong.
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7 Responses to Witness

  1. Ruth says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. It leaves me wondering why we think that it is so extreme to give up on this way of life? I would say programming. We are completely brainwashed to believe that how we live now in western consumer society is normal, and that there’s no alternative. It’s this taken-for-grantedness that keeps us stuck in our downward spiral. We neutralize ourselves psychologically and spiritually. I believe that one of the most important things we can do at this moment in history is to withdraw our consent and begin actively discrediting the mainstream paradigm of consumer society.

    • Erin W says:

      Ruth ~ Thank you! I agree we are profoundly programmed. And I actually don’t personally think it is extreme to give it up. I was expressing what I perceive most people think. Anyone who leaves the US and returns can see some of the programming glaringly. Yet the consumer culture full speed ahead has saturated globally and we definitely rise and fall as peoples in response to our global economic interdependence. Withdrawing our consent is our power, but just as Eriel’s points out, I struggle with how far we can go within the culture that sustains us. I appreciated engineer Jay Harman as he spoke of experiencing the bedrock supportive quality of nature vs. the failure/deceit/eternal striving and struggling of our society. I felt that compelling “what the hell do we think we are doing?” question in my gut.

      • Ruth says:

        Yes, the failure/deceit/emptiness of our culture which you mention confirms that in reality it does not sustain us. We only pretend that it does… A question I like to work with is “to what degree am I still pretending?”

  2. Yes, I too cried through the entire film…very deeply heart wrenching indeed! One thing that surprised me was my own passionate rooting for virtue and assurance of a positive evolution + emerging outcome for all of this. It appears we are in the unwinding + last death throes of a horrific 13 thousand year epoch of patriarchal domination, military corporate industrial complex + greed as god. At the same time we are in the birthing process of a mysterious new self + new world that we have no idea — except in our bellies, wombs + cellular sensation; what its all about. In the face of this, within our bodies that are ONE with the EARTH…we must DEEPLY FEEL our passionate longing for + love affair with LIFE…it is that, that is programmed deepest within us. This film did not allow me to not feel that longing and that was very uncomfortable, so much so I could not sit still. I had to get up + move my body in the back of theater while watching…and crying.
    We must remember to not hurt ourselves or others in the process of standing, speaking, acting, praying + fighting for what we want. The part that surprised me is the “push back” from those parts of humanity who are so attached to the status quo that will kill to remain on this path of the programming that Ruth mentions. It concerns me to become what we do not want. In that vein, I tend toward love + spiritual activism rather than fighting these days. I trust all is well….even if it feels like hell.

    • Erin W says:

      Maureen ~ “I trust all is well, even if it feels like hell.” Thank you for sharing your powerful response. Part of the discomfort for me is beyond acknowledging the grief and standing witness, it is paralysis at how I am to change my OWN life in response. And then I wonder if I were to obtain funds to live 100% off a square of land, off the grid even, how on Earth is that doing anything in the face of the largest population on earth (China) needing to install LED screens with sunsets/sunrises in Beijing because the pollutant layer is so thick there is no way to tell where the sun is? Examples on and on. In the face of it all, I agree with you a spiritual activism feels like the best way forward for me. Eriel’s tattoo “LOVE is the movement” says it all.

  3. “…this film includes one possible engineering biomimicry solution, but does not touch the foundation of the lifestyle that creates the pollution.”

    I agree, Erin. It takes not merely thinking out of the box, but getting rid of the old box, to save our planet. Thanks for these thoughts! – h

    • Yes Hannah, I too questioned/wondered the thinking behind that engineering solution that was intended to “buy time” and somehow soothe the symptoms without discovering a real transformation of the source of disturbance. On the other hand, what your group mentioned in the discussion about acting from the heart without being attached to outcome also was still ringing strong to me. It is difficult to know where these initial seemingly “bandaid like” innovations + offerings will lead for the benefit of the whole. I wondered who would actually benefit from these gadgets and if he could assist those working to clean the Ganges with them?

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