Material Necessity

Article — January 24, 2017 — love, home, language

In Tamera the word “tonal” is in common usage. It means earthly, mundane, material, tangible.This meaning came from Carlos Castaneda’s books. There are older meanings, too.

It’s almost exclusively used to talk about “tonal issues” or “tonal questions”, meaning work that needs to be done: usually cooking, cleaning, or childcare, but also larger work having to do with organization, logistics or infrastructure. Tonal jobs.

Whenever I hear this word, it nearly always carries an implicit apology with it. A typical sentence would be, “first we have to answer some tonal questions”. The speaker is very sorry to bring the listeners such bad news.This is a bit like saying, “There’s still a reason to live. Sorry!”

There’s a common understanding that no one wants to deal with tonal issues; they’re just a hassle that we need to deal with somehow, whether we like it or not.It’s worth mentioning: since our emotions are a bit more corporeally rooted than our thoughts, that twinge of “ugh” we feel about certain tasks can be a clue that what we’re considering isn’t actually needed. But it can also just mean we’re brats. You have to check!

What does it say about a culture when a word which means “earthly” is so disdained?

Western culture as a whole seems to share this attitude of dismissiveness and resentment toward material necessity. It isn’t only about work; it’s about health,
By the way, you need to quit smoking. (source)
ecology, and everything that “the body”, in one form or another, wants.

In the last few hundred years, more often than not, we’ve chosen not to answer the needs in front of our eyes, and to burn it all down instead.

Tamera is a shining example by contrast. But even if the whole world had the attitude of Tamera, I’m quite sure our behavior as a species still wouldn’t change enough to stay under 2 degrees of warming, or reduce extreme poverty to less than a billion people world-wide, or clean up the Pacific trash vortex in less than a century.

We might manage to halt the deforestation of the Amazon, or at least reduce it to less than a thousand square kilometers per year,To quell your hopelessness: we have as much capacity for regeneration as for devastation. Maybe more. As an example of that fact in ecology, the Loess plateau is one of my favorites. but I can’t imagine we’d avert more than half the easily-preventable megadeaths in the coming two decades that we could, if we would give just a bit more value to the material world.

To that end, I want to share:

I love matter.

As I walk across dirt roads, flattened and barren of life, I’m haunted by the souls of the plants who might grow there. Like sterile fluorescent lights, I hear the absence of the worms and insects who would burrow through thick, dark soil, so moist I could press my fingers through to feel them softly wriggling.

By the side I see dead brush, gray and brown and desiccated, and I see the rich chemical energy bound in its cellulose and lignin. It calls out as if it were warm, fresh-baked bread: take me! Eat me! Let me transform through you, accelerate my journey of endless regeneration.

What treasure! And another, and another, on and on for miles, and all to be left lifelessly alone and dry for years, in criminal madness.

Fantasies of fungal compost and pyrolytic reactors dance in my mind, along with images I have no names for: machines and animals and machinimals, crawling across the land in lazy meanders, chewing the earth, growing fat and happy and multiplying, leaving mulchy paradise in their wake.

And all bathed in solar power, every day and every year, an inexhaustible well from which we drink deeper all the time: enfolding heat in substance, given bioavailable form, energetic light becoming negentropic body.

My own body – my God! All the sixty-some-trillion cells of me, each one a corpuscle of coagulated stellar radiance, sipped down into mass over three billion years, working continuously to push and pull and grow and create ever more.

All the smaller selves of me, living and dying and recycling anew, taking in and giving out information and nutrition in a myriad forms. Selves which will, in time, give out, and be taken in by greater selves beyond.

I pick up a rusty old nail from the ground, and I think:

Who will eat this?

Material Necessity - January 24, 2017 - Veda Cooperative