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Book Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

 

The Sacred Balance
A Visual Celebration of Our Place in Nature
David Suzuki, Amanda McConnell, Adrienne Mason
Greystone Books 09/03 Paperback $24.95
ISBN: 1553650654


We live in a vibrant web of connections and yet many of us rush around blithely indifferent to the Earth and all the benefits she has showered upon us. As a scientist, environmentalist, and thinker David Suzuki has spent a lifetime pondering these incredible connections. This impressive volume was written with documentary filmmaker Amanda McConnell and is a companion volume for the recently broadcast PBS series. It offers a visual celebration of our place in nature with stunning photographs, reproductions of artwork, drawings, satellite images, and electron micrographs by Galen Rowell, Art Wolfe, and others. Quotations from literature and sacred texts are juxtaposed with images from many cultures and geographies. The book is organized around the seven elements that provide the setting and the drama for our complex and multileveled lives: earth, air, fire, water, biodiversity, love, and spirituality.

Wonders abound in this sacred balance. As Argentinian writer Alejandrio Lerner observes, "We are all one. Birds, plants, animals. minerals — we are all different manifestations of the same essential energy. Our way ahead, our searches and dreams are the molecular expression of the life experience of everything that makes up our planet. By caring for it, we will help each other to grow." Native peoples the world over have lived by this principle of the unity of all living beings. But the industrialized nations have emphasized the separations that enable us to cut up, parcel out, and destroy our fellow beings in the march of so-called progress.

Ancient peoples also emphasized the ties that link us to the natural world after death. Suzuki's father, in the face of his demise at 85, told his son: "Every time you hear the wind sigh in the trees, every echo of an eagle's call, each silvery flash of a coho salmon will inform you that I am still here." That is the spiritual reading of the powerful connections that give all kinds of life meaning and value.

And here's another fascinating fact: "The air that wraps Earth is a single entity, the matrix that holds us all. It is a global commons from which we draw a crucial element of life, sharing as we do molecules that have been breathed in and out of every living thing that has ever breathed on Earth. Molecules that pass through us have passed through brontosaurs, neolithic hunters, Roman emperors, hummingbirds, snails. And what we put into it goes up our noses."

Both our love and our spirituality humbly recognize the connections at the core of our existence on Earth. May they be our compasses as we navigate our way into the future.

 

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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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