Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cultivating respect for dirt

When did dirt become such a dirty word?  Think about it.  How many negative associations we have with dirt and dirty. Even though we were born of dirt and will someday return to the dirt we speak ever so negatively of dirt.  We talk of people that “fight dirty”, “dirty old men”, doing “dirty deeds”, getting “dirty looks” and keeping “dirty little secrets”.  The list goes on.

Our cultural revulsion to dirt is evidenced in burial practices.  It has become common to keep the dead indefinitely removed from their natural elements by placing bodies in a metal caskets that are then sealed underground in a concrete vault. I don’t find it a pleasant thought to consider many of us will wait in purgatory for centuries filled with embalming fluid in a cement vault until we finally return back to dirt.  Others will expedite the process of returning to dirt by cremation, or better yet by having a green funeral.

Ironic, isn’t it that we put down dirt, yet we’re all made out of dirt.  We’re just an elaborate mix of the elements contained in dirt, mixed with a little water and air.  No wonder it isn’t easy to “clean up our act” when we’re really just glorified dirt balls.

Part of our problem is we really don’t know or appreciate dirt.  It is much more complex than we give it credit. Our institutions of higher learning have recognized the soiled reputation of dirt and now have departments of “soil science”.  Seems a pretty fancy title for the study of dirt.

Recently studies have discovered that a little dirt is good for children.  It trains their immune systems to avoid allergies and fight diseases.

Dirt is also important to us in a variety of additional ways.  It is the medium of crop production and plant growth, producer and absorber of gases, waste decomposer, filter for water and wastes and home to plants and animals.

I would propose we all work to develop a much greater respect for dirt.  Native cultures consider the earth to be our mother. We haven’t been nearly so respectful of our environment. With global weirding I’m reminded of a variation on a wise old proverb, if Mother Earth ain’t happy, ain’t nobody going to be happy.

Some medical doctors know of the intrinsic value of dirt.  Word is that one physician is known to frequently prescribe mud baths to his terminally ill patients.  When asked about the efficacy of this mud therapy he has to admit it won’t cure them, but it will get them used to the dirt.

We’re all terminal aren’t we?  I shared this thought with my 98 year-old Grandmother and she quickly retorted, “yes, but how long is our term?”

However long our term, my fellow mortal, please know thyself, thy name is dirt. And it is good.

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