SummaReview: The Lost Language of Plants

cover_LostLanguageOfPlantsThe Lost Language of Plants unveils a world (our world) that is both shocking and stimulating, spectacularly disturbing and deeply moving. In this world there are plants, yes, but the book is about much more than plants. As Buhner comments in a note to the reader, “…this book explores the complex, multidimensional, intricately interconnected, synergistic, living organism that we call Earth, and it is designed to be complex and multidimensional as well” (viii). The book itself intentionally transmits multiple layers of communication, reflective of the plants and living organisms that are featured throughout.

He describes how plants communicate using self-generated natural chemicals—affecting, directing, and responding to the environments and communities that they live in. Unfortunately, our global environment has become completely inundated with trace amounts of pharmaceutical chemicals, radioactive materials, and medical, infectious and pathological waste, all of which significantly disrupt the healthy function of ecosystems (including human ecologies). Beyond that, he urges us to see that the simplification of species in ecosystems worldwide dangerously reduces the regenerative capacity of Earth’s ecosystems, and has grave consequences for human health; human health is inextricably tied to the health of ecosystems worldwide.

Man sees the morning as the beginning of a new day; he takes germination as the start in the life of a plant, and withering as its end. But this is nothing more than a biased judgment on his part. Nature is one. There is no starting point or destination, only an unending flux, a continuous metamorphosis of all things.
–Masanobu Fukuoka (148)

The mountain of devastating and publicly available data and statistics about the environmental impacts of technological medicine highlights deeper issues of our modern predicament; these deeper issues have to do with the reductive and mechanistic paradigms, epistemologies, and concepts that we use to understand and interact with the world; this includes the “universe-as-machine” metaphor, which denies the possibility of intelligence, self-awareness, and sanctity in the non-human organisms of Earth.

Ironwood Archepelago

The Ironwood archepelago exemplifies the non-linear affects of the language of plants on ecosystem function.

By describing the systemic and multi-functional uses of plant chemistry throughout Earth’s ecosystems, Buhner makes the case that the chemical language of plants is much more than mere chemistry; it is an intentionally meaningful language that is crucial for maintaining the health of ecosystems. The “lost” language of plants, then, has more to do with the loss of meaning ascribed by humans to the world around us. In other words,  “this book delves into the meaning embedded within plant chemistry, the language of plants—a language human beings in the Western world lost knowledge of when we began to think so insistently with the analytical portions of our brains and quit thinking with other more holistic parts of ourselves” (ix). Thus, what is deeply needed is for us to recover the innate capacity to understand the world as a living system. This means interacting with the land as a sacred place, filled with sacred beings. It’s the foundation for healing the interior and exterior wounds created by the “universe-as-machine” mentality.

“Without deep connection to the land our healers remain anthropocentric—human centered—in their approaches, their theories of human health generated in isolation from the environment with which we evolved. They contain the same category error that all reductionist sciences contain. The solution is reconnection to the natural world and the living intelligence of land” (230).


Change of Mind, Not Heart

Fairfield is a transformative place to be, especially when you’re already working on yourself. The inner work of Self-awareness and liberation from unconscious conditioning is the good work of becoming your True Self – free from guilt, shame, fear, suppressed emotions, hidden desires – and free to be happy, sad, mad, loud, quiet, tough, rough, soft, so long as it respects the free will of others and is non-violent to others. It’s this process of inner transformation that makes life most exciting for me daily, and being in a place like Fairfield allows me to connect with a ridiculously high number/per capita of other people consciously becoming their unique and liberated True Selves. Interestingly, not in Fairfield but New Mexico I experienced an enormous acceleration and integration of my personality; participating in the Earth Medicine Apprenticeship was a primary reason for this progression.

“Earth Medicine” is a way of healing; it involves sacred plant medicine and herbal medicine, deep ecology and environmental philosophy, ecopsychology and psychotheraputic experience, shadow work, inner child work, extra-sensory perception and tracker skills. I just threw out a bunch of labels to point to a process that is more than the sum of its parts. To practice Earth Medicine is to commune deeply and develop a compassionate healing relationship with our own inner nature, which is guided, inspired, informed and blessed by deep communion with Earth Mother – Gaia – Mother Nature. This process involves developing our innate intuitive and psychic skills and developing a deep capacity for sensing with the heart-field as an organ of perception; the experience of these practices challenge the boundary we perceive between “us” and everything else. This work in integrative in the way it connects individuals with a sense of wholeness and oneness with all things “inner” and “outer.”

As I was reflecting with my school advisor on my decision to do a permaculture design for my senior project it became obviously, undeniably, irresistibly apparent that what I want most deeply is to continue to go deeper with “Earth Medicine” now and on into the future after graduation; thus, it would be most appropriate to focus my senior project around this area of interest to go deeper and get to know what aspects of it I am drawn to most. This would include actual physical work in the garden where I live – planning and planting a perennial medicine garden, writing a 30-page integrative paper on the subject, and offering a series of workshops on “Earth Medicine” to the community.

There is, however, an important consideration and responsibility that I must uphold – Doing the Permaculture Design. Since my original project proposal was for a permaculture design at the site where I rent and live, I need to consider my landlord’s expectations, since we agreed that I would do the design for his land. I am free – I was born free and I will die free -and I’m not bound to anything. But keeping agreements is something that is important both on karmic and personal levels. Thus, I need to re-negotiate my agreement with my landlord because the timing of everything is going to change. While my intention and interest still lie in doing an ever-so-necessary design for the land, my highest passion and most precious attention will be going toward Earth Medicine for the 2 months of my senior project. Fortunately, there is overlap between certain aspects of permaculture design (observation, analysis and assessment) and the process of Earth Medicine will help tremendously with the initial fundamental stages of any good permaculture design.

Fortunately, I plan to remain living where I am for several seasons after I graduate, which will allow me to continue to work on the permaculture design after I graduate. I also have a feeling that having more time to deliberate and research proposed aspects of the design will make for a more intelligent and appropriate design overall. Ultimately, what’s most important is that I’m being True to mySelf. So long as my thoughts and actions are grounded in the integrity of who I am at my core the outcome will be most evolutionary for all concerned.