World History and the Meaning of Being Human – A Town and its Trees – by Ellen Hansen. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
(Brule Bog, Solon Springs, WI)
There is something about a walk through the forest that really clears the mind. Even on a humid July morning, when the ground is muddy from rain and mosquitoes are nipping at your shins, it brings peace. Wandering through Solon Springs, Wisconsin, a person can get lost in a sea of green, a team of age-old pines watching over the town and casting shadows on the lake below. This is where I- following the footsteps of my father and grandfather- spent summer weekends growing up.
The natural beauty of this area would not exist, however, without the help of one man: Nick Lucius. I was told as a child that Lucius was a prominent, wealthy member of the town and a true lover of the woods it harbored. When loggers came in and sought to clear the area, he bought up miles’ worth of forested land, saving it from being razed and setting it aside for everyone to enjoy. Just like the Lorax, he spoke for the trees. To this day, people tied to the town continue to preserve the land, protecting it as extensions of themselves. The legacy of and appreciation for Lucius can be still be seen around, through a campground and roads that carry his name.
While this founding myth may not be based on divine intervention or involve a mystic act, it bears semblance to the creation myths of Hinduism’s Purusha and the Barasana River people. As in the Hindu myth, the story of Lucius emphasizes the importance of the natural world as an element of human life, echoing in sentiment the emergence of wind from Purusha’s breath, and earth from his feet. Lucius’ myth similarly reflects that of the Barasana, connecting generations through the preservation of a treasured land. While the Barasana go so far as to suggest that we are one with our ancestors in time and space alike, the Lucius myth merely highlights the idea that our lives have been made better by the actions of those who came before us. Nevertheless, the deep, arguably spiritual connection between people and their land can be seen in the Lucius, Purusha, and Barasana myths alike.
The existence of myths like these is central to the human experience. As sentient beings, we are constantly trying to make sense of the world around us, looking for ideas that connect us to the people and places we are attached to, and give purpose to our actions. This is what separates us from other species. Without any foundational myths- any sense of who we are and where we come from- we would be hard pressed to find this direction or belonging in our lives. As we have discussed in class throughout the semester, nothing today seems sacred. By paying close mind to the stories that build us, we can pull insight from the morals they harbor, pointing us to something greater than ourselves.
From Professor Liang’s Spring 2017 World History I class.
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