Without dirt, without soil, without all that life in the soil, there would be no food, there would be no us. There would be no life as we know it if soil had not begun forming billions of years ago on our planet earth. We are utterly dependent on it, as are all living things.
Creation stories from many cultures tell of humans being carved from wood or shaped from seeds or being moulded out of cornmeal. In some, people climb out of the depths of the earth. The first man in the bible was named Adam, which comes from the ancient Hebrew word adama, meaning “earth” or “soil”. Whatever the image, these stories all share a common truth: we are formed from earth.
We come from earth, and in the end, we return to it. Dirt is the ultimate matrix of life, so much so, that farmer Wes Jackson suggests that humans are really just a stopover between dirt and more dirt.
Humans are so much more than that, of course, but remembering that we are deeply dependent on plain old dirt might keep humanity a little more humble. It might slow us down a little, encourage us to pay attention to the ground beneath our feet. It might remind us to respect and honour this life giving soil. We might even learn something. We might learn about transformation as soil is in a continual state of change, turning decay into fertility.
It might seem odd to find spiritual guidance in learning about soil. It is just dirt, after all, and the spiritual is beyond us, pure and transcendent, beyond the horizon.
Except that it isn’t. Not for Unitarian Universalists, who live oriented to the here and now. Our spiritual lives are entwined with the materiality of life. The soil, the ground beneath our feet, is the source of all life as we know it. Every particle of soil, every atom of earth, is alive with mystery. It is the living, breathing matrix of all life. A source of both physical and spiritual nourishment.
This video from Dirt, the Movie, considers dirt from a spiritual perspective.