The Tao of Etna

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The Tao 

In chinese philosophy, the Tao is a metaphysical concept that refers to the primordial, dynamic and undefinable power of the universe that originates, pervades and unifies everything and which weaves a dense and infinite cosmic network of interconnected and interdependent phenomena. Therefore it is also considered to be the generating energy and the evolutionary driving force of all natural processes and expresses itself through the interaction of two opposed and complementary forces, the female and the male principle, in chinese respectively  Yin and Yang. The symbol of the Tao, originally inspired by the sunny and shady side of a mountain, is represented as a circle divided into two embryonic forms, one white and the other black. The two polarities are embracing each other in an ever-changing and dynamic balance, each containing the seed of the opposite principle.

Tao, nature and ecology

The western vision of nature differs sharply from the eastern one. In fact the latter considers, for example, an electron or a human being, a flower or a galaxy, a volcano or a butterfly, as different expressions of the same energy, the Tao, belonging to the same harmonious, undivided and indivisible web of relationships. If we get to see reality from this perspective, we can realise that duality and separation are really only illusory and we can thus perceive a subtle unified field of energy that permeates and shapes the cosmos, the same energy that we are intimately part of and that guides us in our personal growth. Coming to the awareness of this subtle dimension, nature reveals itself as an extraordinary teacher who shows us an timeless path of harmony that can teach us how to face and be in tune with the incessant cycles of change, helping us to achieve balance with ourselves and as a consequence, with the universe. This also emphasises the reasons of ecology, because if we alter the natural balance of nature, we inevitably generate disharmony and suffering in the world that surrounds us and automatically in ourselves.

The Tao of Etna

Today we have easy access to numerous informations about traditions belonging to very different backgrounds. This offers us new and excellent tools with the potential to enrich and accelerate our personal growth. I am at the same time the geologist who sees and interprets scientifically nature and the individual fascinated by the mystery that surrounds us and draws on the wisdom of ancient oriental philosophy. Etnatao, the name I chose for this project, combines these two polarities. However, it is worth to be remembered that only in the modern era there was a progressive and excessive fragmentation of human knowledge and because of this, philosophy and science have ended up being considered as two separate and antithetical disciplines of human knowledge. Isaac Newton instead, for example, defined philosophiae naturalis precisely the compendium between philosophical reflection and observation and study of nature.

On the surface of our planet the dynamics of nature manifests itself, along with countless other processes, with the constant growth of mountain ranges and in the geological time scale, inevitably every mountain will suffer the erosion attack and will eventually be demolished and disappear. In the meantime, others will gradually begin to form and grow, continuing this endless cycle of transformation, the “dance” of planet Earth. We can see all this because the aforementioned processes take place over millions of years, a time dimension very different from ours. On the contrary on Mt. Etna area, these evolutionary events take place in a very different way. Even in our time scale, due to its continuous and powerful eruptive activity, its landscape, which is called the “dynamic landscape”, changes so rapidly and significantly, to constantly give new shapes to the architecture and the morphology of this volcano. Here, for example, a new crater can be formed, on the summit or on the slopes of the volcano and it can grow tens or hundreds of meters within a few days, few weeks or a few months, while an old crater can disappear quickly due to structural collapse. For these reasons this volcano is one of the few places on earth, as we said before, where the energy of the planetary evolutionary process manifests itself in an incredible amplified way. Etna therefore represents a splendid natural laboratory, a gigantic, complex living organism in incessant development and a powerful engine of change.

The Tao of hiking

The naturalistic excursions proposed here therefore give the opportunity to get to know a very special volcano, to visit its most peaceful and primordial places far from the busy ones reached by mass tourism, to walk its paths, to appreciate the contrast and variety of its landscapes, to know its history and its evolution. During the time that we will share, I also will have the pleasure to talk about the multiplicity and the richness of the naturalistic details of this fascinating ecosystem, the need to protect its fragile ecological balance, the strong influence of the volcano community on the evolutionary process of Earth together with some simple and personal philosophical considerations, in order to offer a wider experience of this park. Thanks to the magnetic presence of this powerful volcano, the visitor could be inspired to perceive in a deeper way the natural dynamics of mother Earth and to catch a glimpse of the network of relationships that includes and transcends us that can help us live a  better quality of life and reach a higher level of awareness.

Magical places are always beautiful and deserve to be contemplated,

they represent a the bridge between the invisible and the visible.”

Paulo Coelho

Tat Tvam Asi

तत् त्वम् असि

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