2011 Speech to the World's First Ecotherapy Certificate Graduates

A column by Craig Chalquist, PhD

2011 Speech to the World's First Ecotherapy Certificate Graduates
9/10/11 (Sugarloaf Amphitheater, Walnut Creek, CA - event sponsored by JFK University)

Eighty-four years ago, Hermann Hesse published a novel, Steppenwolf, in which the protagonist stands for the type of person who is sensitive to shifts in collective consciousness. Recalling Nietzsche as such a sensitive-- “I give you the advent of nihilism”--Hesse's novel diagnoses the suffering not only of individuals, but of the times themselves. For times out of joint impact the sensitive right through their individually felt wounds.

What Hesse, Nietzsche, and others predicted we now live: the end of an age of technocratic hubris and capitalized colonialism, an end announced by social systems, economic systems, and ecosystems crashing around the planet. Which raises the question: What do sensitive people of our time register?

Everyone here today feels the wounds of our planet in your very flesh. In fact, it is the ecotherapist’s task to remain open to that level of wounding so you can help other people stand theirs. Ideally, you encourage them to move from passive victimization by “eco-anxiety” and other ailments of alienation from the natural world into deeper contact with and appreciation of Earth, our home, our origin, and source of embodied healing.

Yet sensitive people sense future possibilities, as Hesse described so often in his writings. Just as the intuitive of his time sensed the oncoming tide of worldwide disorganization, so the intuitive of ours sense what waits beyond it: the just and sustainable world community we must build to survive and flourish on our homeworld.

Nietzsche announced the advent of nihilism; but as graduates of the first ecotherapy certificate program, your presence announces an advent of possibility. Remember that when you forget that the chaos and madness around you signify the birth pangs of a new planetary community, one informed by a new series of deep engagements with Earth’s remarkable systemic intelligence.

It’s customary for educators to give advice at graduation ceremonies, and I will, if only one piece of advice:

Work together. If you stay together and support each other, you will not fail. You will not fail because you are writing the new story for our time. From the seeds of your ecotherapy work sprouts the hope for reconciliation of supposed opposites torn apart by a worldview in decline: human and nonhuman, spirit and flesh, feminine and masculine, self and Earth. Agents of decline might withhold their assistance and even denounce your work, but the rocks and rivers support it.

It has been my honor and privilege to watch you struggle, reflect, study, and labor your way forward. Words do no justice to the pride and satisfaction I feel as you complete this rite of passage.

Now for Gaia’s sake go celebrate and have fun!

Witnesses and celebrants, I give you the world's first Ecotherapy Certificate graduates!




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