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    A Wider Circle

    I recently found a May, 1975, issue of OK Corral: The News Magazine of the Lane County [Oregon] Mental Health Association. On the front page is an article I wrote way back then. It's relevant to the issues we face here today: wineries and redwoods, the future of Sonoma Compost, how we work together to minimize and respond to climate change, supporting the elderly and the homeless, optimum patient care, and just how we feel day to day. So here it is, including the illustration that appeared with it:

    A Wider Circle

    Community mental health, like other humanitarian movements, suffers from anthropocentrism. Mental health activities center around learning to relate to other human beings. We neglect the very real need to relate to the whole of nature: to other animals, plants, weather, seasons, the cycles of birth and death, decay and renewal.

    The human psyche is linked to the rest of nature through its evolutionary heritage. It is not only the organs of the body that demonstrate evolutionary history, but the patterns of our thoughts as well, particularly the structure of the unconscious mind. I believe that our alienation from each other, our alienation from nature, and our over-emphasis on conscious, rational faculties are interlocking aspects of one problem.

    I cannot be mentally healthy if I block my unconscious; I can only be healthy if my unconscious and conscious thoughts and behavior interpenetrate meaningfully. And my unconscious draws me into the matrix of all organic life. Similarly, I cannot be mentally healthy if I denigrate my sense experience. And immediate, personal sense experience, like my unconscious, shows me no distinction between things that have consciousness and those that do not. Human consciousness recedes into the matrix of all consciousness, and I am free to hear what the trees and wind have been telling us all along.

    We are also linked to the rest of nature through shared circumstances of existence. When we perceive physiognomic features reminiscent of human traits in other animals, in tree, in rocks, or whatever we are not merely projecting. Rather, we correctly perceive that other species and the face of the earth are shaped by the very same forces that shape human physiognomy and personality. Animals, plants, earth and sky all develop in response to the same bio-geo-physical forces: relating well to any aspect of this whole offers significant understanding of events in our own lives.

    The dramatic world of nature forms a continuum with our own dreams, fantasies, and waking behavior. Not only in our human friends and neighbors, but in all organic life we can find and be affected by expressive and meaningful behavior. Mental health does not exist in isolation from other species; and it is not by listening to our fellow humans alone that we can find our places in this life.
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