On Mother’s Day we appreciate those adults who nurtured our howling and screeching primate selves out of the precognitive underbrush of infancy. The splendours of a Mother’s love knows no bounds, to be sure, and to this we can attest when we see or experience the labours required for child-rearing. We all began life with adult caregivers of one type or another, and, in this instance at least, biology is secondary to necessity. There’s no out from appreciating motherhood on Mother’s Day; like our drive to achieve success at AU, the original impetus to life itself came from our mothers and, behind all the mothers through history, from the mother of life as we know it: Mother Earth.
Like our evolutionary cousins, such as ringtail lemurs, bonobo apes, and silverback gorillas, we entered the light of consciousness with the help of motherly love. And yet, when we elevate our minds up the dusty ivory tower of intellectualism, we find the air becoming increasingly arid, abstract, and parched of emotive affect perhaps described by the idea of maternal love. Education can seem devoid of feeling, and that’s why many of us only as adults return to schooling. Where did scholarly life go wrong when words and ideas left out care and compassion? Pausing to gaze out at the abyss of knowledge that we’ve gleaned in our studies as part of a long, mostly male, scholastic tradition, we might be tempted to cast aside the gender divide with the timeless phrase that we’re all human. After all, most AU students are female and many of us are ourselves mothers! Surely the best education about what really matters involves receiving a card lovingly scrawled by a sweet tot. And if we’re the adult givers of such a card then what matters is not that we can speak our sentiments like the greeting card industry but that we can express what matters most: our love and appreciation for our mothers. And those feelings at their roots transcend the personal conditions of our arrival here on earth.
And So, A Quick Tour with Mother Earth in Mind
Around the world, the feeling of maternal love is expressed in philosophies and religions. In India, for instance, horrific Covid conditions bring to the forefront the mother of all protector goddesses. Her name is traditionally Shitala matta but nowadays she takes the name Corona mata as cholera has given way to Covid. Corona mata functions like a spiritual vaccination (presumably in tandem with its scientific corollary). As a sharp jab to the soul, so to speak, that “enters a body, she supposedly fights the fever with her antidotes in the presence of cold edibles inside the ritual room, and through processions of songs and performances outside it.”
The Mother of Invention: Let it Be?
Meanwhile, as we humans attempt to ward off the climate change plague we’ve wrought with industrialism and overpopulation, the tendency is to interfere with the earth further. It’s like trying to dig our way out of a hole, perhaps. The more we dig, the more the hole will collapse or, as the saying goes, we’ll just dig ourselves in deeper. Consider this recent scientific finding about solar panels in Africa, originally intended to preserve and sanctify our continued fast-lane activities and electricity consumption:
“While the black surfaces of solar panels absorb most of the sunlight that reaches them, only a fraction (around 15%) of that incoming energy gets converted to electricity. The rest is returned to the environment as heat. The panels are usually much darker than the ground they cover, so a vast expanse of solar cells will absorb a lot of additional energy and emit it as heat, affecting the climate.
“If these effects were only local, they might not matter in a sparsely populated and barren desert. But the scale of the installations that would be needed to make a dent in the world’s fossil energy demand would be vast, covering thousands of square kilometers. Heat re-emitted from an area this size will be redistributed by the flow of air in the atmosphere, having regional and even global effects on the climate.”
The ancient Chinese sage Lao Tzu notes that, all too often, we try and solve a problem with more interference and that only makes things worse. “If you would take from a thing, you must first give to it” (Lau Tzu, 41). Surely in these times where there are 30 cities with populations larger than 10 million, the time has come to appreciate Mother Earth by not adding so many little minions to her ecological carrying capacity (Young, online). Athabasca provides an opening where we can give birth to new ideas and perspectives rather than literally create human offspring; in this sense, motherhood in the broadest sense may be appeased by our inaction on the procreative front. Perhaps by letting nature be, by giving Mother Earth a rest from our tireless activities and the ceaseless expansion of our population, we may allow her to heal and rejuvenate. After all, don’t we all know a few older ladies who’ve rediscovered their inner vivacity after the kids have gone away and left them some space for calm? To be sure, AU is bursting with potential in part due to adult students who finally have time to pursue that long-sought-after course or degree. Academia can really set us free to be the mothers of our own destiny.
Here in secular civilization, we might rightly, in cosmological terms strictly physical (or, more specifically, amenable to hegemonic physicist discourse), consider the earth our mother. Nothing provides ground for our first footsteps, nor air for our first breath of post-birth life more assuredly than old Terra Firma. A kind lady, to be sure. And yet, as we befoul her like a playpen for our industrial pursuits, even our efforts at charity and protection can be like asking a human mother to literally eat a mud pie we’ve made. Even the dandelion sticking out as a decoration would wilt in disgust! When we try to literally fix or help Mother Earth we often, as a species, just make things worse. Perhaps to truly nurture the earthly mother of our creation means we must leave her be in more places and in more ways. Like how our AU studies require solitude in peace and quiet, maybe the ultimate gift to our earth mother on mother’s day is also a little of the old P & Q!