Meconium for a New Age

Images of the BP oil spill got me thinking about meconium—that first tarry poop that took alcohol wipes to get off my thumb in the wake of my first at-bat in the big leagues of diaper changing.

I remember being fascinated by this tenacious stuff in the first days of parenthood, like I was being initiated into some secret society—the one-time first poop of a lifetime, the leavings of “holding it” for 9 months while not officially eating (swallowing some random cells here and some amniotic fluid there) and forming into formless goo as the baby’s very intestines form.

I recall wiping that downloaded meconium from my fingers and thinking about beach days and wiping little black spots of tar from the soles of my feet while pondering those ominous distant passing oil tankers and their toxic leavings.

And then I was thinking about how crude oil and tar are really decomposed vegetation, swamp stuff and trees that, under pressure and deep under ground, turned into this stuff we harvest out of the earth and burn.  And it makes sense that it does burn because trees and plants capture sunlight and turn it into energy, thus wood and oil alike are forms of trapped sunlight suspended in matter—matter that burns when releasing that energy in the form of fire—light escaping back into the ephemeral wave form in which it arrived on earth.

If there is any truth to the notion that humans are striving, bass-ackwards and ever so slowly, toward some sort of we-are-the-world unity consciousness, perhaps this BP debacle in the Gulf of Mexico could be looked at as metaphoric meconium being passed into the amniotic fluid of our original womb—the sea.

Yes the oil is a mess, and yes it’s a tragic situation, but perhaps the possibility of redemption might be in seeing that while oil is natural, just like meconium, it’s very tough to clean up and ought to mark a once-in-an-eon event, at least moving forward, here on our increasingly small world earth.

The eco-catastrophe of the gulf oil spill is truly a collective event in that it brings a unity of focus—something virtually everyone knows at least something about.  In a sense it is a collective rorchach upon an anthropomorphized earth.  Perhaps the oil is the earth’s blood and we’re bleeding her out; perhaps it’s the earth’s period, maybe even the heavy flow before some global menopause.  I offer the meconium perspective because I hope to find the opposites—an ending of one thing (wanton disregard for our shared world) as well as a potential beginning of another (a parenting attitude toward a world in our care) — which is where things magical and transformative can transpire.

Even if I’m merely projecting, by analogy, onto an industrial catastrophe, my aim with this post is to invite us to think “new beginning” and turn toward nursing and nurturing our earth into the next stage of development—one in which we recognize a collective and expanded identity that encompasses nature and humans into a common and inter-relational phenomenon (akin to the mother child relationship which is more than the sum of its parts).

Meconium derives from the word opium, either owing to the tar-like appearance or to Aristotle’s assertion that the substance itself had a drug like effect on the fetus.  Whether or not religion is the opium of the masses, perhaps oil is the opium of the industrial age; it has certainly proved addictive, war-inspiring and robber baron birthing at the collective level; and with the collateral damage of greenhouse gasses, burning oil has turned our earth into a problematic hothouse—a global opium den.

Perhaps it’s time for the “parents” of the planet, those who must take care of either a newly conscious planet-as-child-in-our-care or an aging and at least temporarily sick mother earth who has regressed to a meconium level of development (a planet in need of either diapers or Depends) after we’ve been the not-good-enough parents, having disappointed the shit out of her.  Either way it’s time to step up, clean up and take a look at our entitled and endless taking from earth with no thought of giving back to a Mother we ravage like pre-conscious and hungry infants or a child we exploit and fail to see as sacred.

If we were to treat the earth itself, and all its children, as if they were our personal children then perhaps we grown-ups, by embracing a parenting attitude, might grow, evolve and deepen our collective happiness in much the same way that parenting, if risen to and engaged heart and soul, can help unlock happiness and a deeper sense of purpose at the individual level.

And since most of us cannot fly down to the gulf and risk serious illness ourselves while donning protective gear to clean up the tar on the beaches and try to rescue the animals drowning in primordial ooze, perhaps we can tend to our own little corners of the planet and to the children in our sphere, bringing along with this a conscious intention to thank, to restore and to evolve in the service of more harmonious relationships with our earth and with each other.

Namaste, Bruce

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8 Responses to “Meconium for a New Age”

  1. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    Hey there, Bruce – It’s nice to see you posting today. I will admit that I’ve missed your daily missives, but am glad and grateful for the morsels that you continue to leave along our shared trail.

    I want to believe in the upside and the potential of the Gulf spill, that it will be some sort of catalyst for Earth love and environmental awareness. But I am a cynic. I find myself thinking back to the Haitian earthquake, Katrina, the tsunami, even the Exxon Valdez. I fear that we humans are all too good at temporary mobilization via web donation, but aren’t willing to take any steps to actually change our lifestyle in a way that actually hurts a bit. ($10 to the Red Cross? Of course! Carpooling to work? What a pain!) I suppose my attitude isn’t helping matters, but it seems that my optimism is being weighed down by the toxic sludge this time around.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      I think your point is on the money, literally. It’s also about the zeitgeist. Change isn’t something we will bring about, so much as change is what will happen and to which we will adapt.

      As a therapist I have learned that change is born of pain—when the pain of changing (i.e. public transportation, car pool) is seen to be less than the pain of not changing (i.e. gas at $8.00 per gallon) we change.

      That’s why I say I see a bit of meconium on the diaper of our collective conscious. We’re probably in for some sleepless nights before we can expect things to actually get any better.

  2. BigLittleWolf Says:

    What a fascinating concept, and talk about turning a situation inside out to find its silver (or in this case, tarry) lining. . .

    Like Kristen, I wonder what it will really take for us to change our ways “collectively.” And yet I’d like to think that it is in part the media spotlight that turns away. And to some extent, individuals, only in so far as we have so many challenges to face that we simply cannot address them all for an extended period. It is untenable.

    That awareness might be harnessed and used for real change is not impossible, but will likely be slow. We are all zapped in this new millennium, but hearts are not entirely depleted.

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      Agreed that we are zapped and yet not entirely tapped out in our hearts. Even though I am male, I strongly feel that it is the return of a feminine consciousness (which is not not realm of men vs. woman so much as object thinking vs. relational thinking) that will shift the way we humans see ourselves in relationship to the earth and each other.

      In the meantime, it’s nice to chat with you and Kristen.

  3. Laurie Says:

    Oh Bruce I remember the meconian days well. I remember worrying when the “real” poop would come. When it did, it shot out of my son’s tush like a cannonball and I literally caught it with my hands in mid-air. One of my son’s favorite story for me to tell. Perhaps it’s time we all start catching things as they fly by. Not just passively watch as it goes. Nice reading you.

  4. Julie Bond Genovese Says:

    Your posts are funny and beautifully lighthearted and incredibly touching at the same time. I cracked up at “(a planet in need of either diapers or Depends) after we’ve been the not-good-enough parents, having disappointed the shit out of her.” Perfect touch. I remember THAT particular tar very well — but you miraculously brought it into a global arena. Amazing.

    I found your fabulous blog through Katrina Kenison — you have so many posts that I want to read that I’ll have to stop by tomorrow and the next and the next. This morning we are off to get Hamsters for my boys. You would not believe how many YouTubes I’ve seen on Hamsters these past 2 weeks since the fish died (power outage) and my oldest realized it was time for some rodents. Woo-hoo!

    • privilegeofparenting Says:

      We have evolved from fish through guinea pigs to an actual dog (who these days must wear a t-shirt over her bulldog sensitive skin because she appear to be allergic to wood chips in the garden).

      I’m glad you mentioned Katrina, because I was going to suggest you to her extremely wonderful energy and inspiring blog—a gem for all parents, but especially those of us who struggle and strive to find our own voices as writers and to savor the sacred in what just is.

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