Nerves of jelly
Earth day, beauty, keeping it all together
When I put together a video for Earth Day on Friday, I made sure to use some footage of jellyfish taken on a recent visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. A group of jellyfish is also called a ‘bloom’ and watching them move through water is mesmerizing. I always feel calmer after standing in front of tank full of sea jellies.
I’ve been thinking of my own nervous system a lot of late in this pandemic transition-zone/threatened democracy / climate-change stew of existence we’re all living in these days.
“We’re having to adjust our social nervous systems,” a somatic therapist I work with reminded me. “It’s a thing right now.”
That got us talking about the vagus nerve, which is the main nerve system of the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls specific body functions such as digestion, heart rate and immune system, and can have an effect on our mental health. Stimulating the nervous system can lead not only to better health overall, but a better state of mind. Fortunately, there are a lot of simple ways to do this, including singing, chanting and humming.
After our talk, I went looking for images of the vagus nerve and something about the diagram of the vagus nerve reminded me of these pulsating jellyfish, which led me to read more about sea jellies. It turns out jellyfish have radially distributed nervous systems instead of brains. Hmm, maybe it wasn’t just their beauty that inspired a sense of calm and wonder.
Speaking (and singing) of Earth Day, it was Friday… but really earth day is every day. Fellow San Francisco musician Pete Kronowit tipped me off to Music Declares Emergency last year, “a group of artists, music industry professionals and organizations that stand together to declare a climate and ecological emergency and call for an immediate governmental response to protect all life on Earth.” Fellow musicians who’d like to get involved can learn up and sign the declaration HERE.
And there are many, many other ways to take action on behalf of the climate, be it with your voice, presence or dollars. Climate Action Network is another great resource. REI also has a clearAction Network on their site HERE.