Report from the Thirteenth Annual International ITA Conference: “Towards Earth Community, Ecology, Native Wisdom & Spirituality” Killarney, May 1994
By Maria Blake.
Many of us travelled to Killarney for the Conference expecting to hear new and spectacular things, only to discover that, in the words of Thomas Berry: “We must go back to the beginning and re-invent the human who can interact with the Earth, the animals, the plants and Humankind, with all its differentiation.” He recalled how, as a ten year old, he stood in a meadow covered in wild white lilies. The memory of that scene has stayed with him and he has made that meadow his norm. He measures the quality of economics, politics and religion by the extent to which they preserve that meadow and enable it to bloom.
He spoke of a deep “cultural pathology” with which we are living. This is the work of “good people” not “bad people”. Good people, he said, are dangerous. There is no danger so great as “good people” with an inadequate idea of what is good. The better they are, the worse the consequences. At the same time, he affirmed “we can feel alienated but never be alienated – the Universe does not permit it. It supports us and will never give up on us.”
So, re-inventing the human means going back, accepting the fact of genetic coding on the species level: We can’t choose whether we think or don’t think, but we can choose what we do with our thinking …
Jean Shinoda Bolen in her theme of Goddess, used words that made us sit up. “Every woman has the leading role in her own unfolding life story.” Directing her talk particularly to people in mid-life, who are so aware that they simply don’t have that much time left, she used the Grail story and the story of the Handless Maiden, to illustrate our need to connect with cut-off parts of ourselves. After centuries of being told by Patriarchy what was sacred for us, couldn’t we now begin deciding for ourselves?
Ram Dass appealed to us to cultivate a way of being in the middle of chaos, yet being able to see a way through. What has remained most vividly with me from this talk was his description of a way of being with a person who is dying. It described what can happen if I can quieten my mind and give the person room to do what they need to do and even to “come out and play”. It is not for me to die their death for them.
There were shortfalls at the Conference. In particular, the Irish felt they should have been consulted more, some from the North of Ireland felt hurt that the pain of that place did not feature. There was a feeling that the Conference would have gained if it had been planned with rather than for the participants. That said, there was a wealth of ritual, poetry, music and dance. Personally, I have to say “Go raibh maith agat” to the Angel of money, who made the ITA Conference possible for me.