The Amazon Rainforest is one of Earth's Three Green Hearts #E3GH - Amazonas - Brazil Photo by Antonio Campoy
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Human Agency, Indigenous Wisdom, Agaya and Hózho

Our love for the living Earth and all beings is expressed in many ways. One of the most significant expressions of this love is through caring actions. We show our love when we tend and defend life’s evolving diversity. But finding the right word to express this love can be difficult. Two words that express our love for all life, our resonance with its beauty, and our reverent commitment to protect life on Earth are the word agaya in Novasutras, and the Diné word hózho.

Hózho and agaya

The Novasutras term agaya attempts to capture our recognition of and response to the transcendent, creative, loving and sacred beauty of the universe. Many cultures throughout history, all around the world, have recognized and attempted to articulate the complex sense of awe, reverence, and joy that we find when we contemplate the true wonder and beauty of the living world and its complex processes.

Spiral petals of a rose provide a lovely example of agaya and hózho. "The Beauty of Life's Unfolding" photo by Paul Schaafsma.

What lives and dies is beautiful. It is absolutely lovely. This is hózho.

Frankie Davis, “Navajo Grandma

We find the word hózho (pronounced like hoe-zhon) in the deep wisdom of Diné language and culture, from the southwest of Turtle Island (Diné are incorrectly referred to as Navajo, and Turtle Island is also known as North America). Peace, balance, beauty and harmony, and recognition of profound connection with the Earth are held in the gorgeously potent word hózho.

Hózho is the joy of being a part of the beauty of all creation. When we understand that humanity is an expression of the Earth’s beauty, we understand that we too belong.

Lyla June, Diné scholar

Hózho is sometimes translated as “the beauty way.” What practices might help us to more consciously walk in beauty?

Like agaya, the word hózho captures both the truth of that larger beauty, and the incredible joy that humans experience when they attend to such wondrousness.

Do you know other languages that have a word for this complex intersection of Gaia and agape? Please leave a reply below.

Hózho and reciprocity: our obligations as humans

Concepts like hózho often point toward our obligations to be beneficial participants in the Living Earth community. They suggest that humans have a special role to fulfill. Humans have responsibilities of care, so that future generations of all beings might thrive in agaya and ubuntu.

Hózho understands that we have an ecological role. Hózho understands that our Mother Earth needs us. When we become her friend, her confidante, her ally, her partner in life, instead of her dominator, her “superior” or her profiteer, we can transform dead systems to living ones.

Lyla June, Diné scholar

When we look closely at the relationships between indigenous cultures and the ecosystems where they live (or lived, prior to traumatic colonization, displacement and, in some cases, genocide), we find more and more evidence of relationships of reciprocity between humans and the more-than-human world. M. Kat Anderson’s breakthrough 2005 book Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources illuminates how traditional practices and sacred obligations recognized by diverse indigenous cultures maintained robust and bountiful habitats. The land thrived under diverse patterns of indigenous care, from the deserts of Australia to the rainforests of the Amazon. In We Are the Middle of Forever: Indigenous Voices from Turtle Island on the Changing Earth (2022, Edited by Dahr Jamail and Stan Rushworth) Lyla June and several other indigenous interviewees highlight the connection between traditional land stewardship, and the roles of ceremony and reverence in keeping the land thriving.

So, when we in Novasutras strive to abide in agaya and ubuntu, we are affirming our intention to honor our obligations to our partners and kin throughout the living world. Wherever on Earth we find ourselves, we can seek the wisdom of those people indigenous to that place. Their traditional ecological knowledge was acquired from millennia of relationships. Anyone from a culture without such time depth has much to learn.

How can we become better partners of a thriving world? How can we reciprocate the gifts of the living Earth, to abide in ubuntu and agaya?

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