First posted June 30, 2010. This is the second most popular essay.
Since the sixties, thinkers have been suggesting it’s time to shift our model of reality from the giant machine to the image of the universe as an organism. Fritjof Capra talks about the shift in worldview that came with quantum mechanics in his wonderful book “The Turning Point”. He writes, “The universe is no longer seen as a machine made up of multiple objects, but has to be pictured as one indivisible, dynamic whole whose parts are essentially interrelated and can be understood only as patterns of a cosmic process.” Seeing the whole is essential to understanding the significance in a situation and is the essence of ecological consciousness. We understand the big picture through concrete vision as well as within our spatial embodied imagination.
The heartbreaking pictures of the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico can be seen as our body bleeding. The globe that supports us all is pierced and hemorrhaging. All the images taken from space that show the growing damage hurt my heart like damage to my own body. Which it is, given I am absolutely dependent on it. A caller to the Diane Rehm show was the first to express out loud the fear this oil spill could kill the whole planet. The satellite and helicopter pictures are the diagnostic scans of our global body. The compartmentalized, rapacious way of looking at the planet that grows from the machine model avoids seeing the interconnections. It may suit the corporati and greed-driven, but an attitude of seeing the planet as a giant reservoir of resources to be exploited interferes with the balance of the all-inclusive organism. Chief Seattle said, “The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth.“ Stabbing oneself in the hope of riches expresses reckless self-loathing.
Organic intelligence is alert to the health of the whole. Since everything is part of an intricate network of interrelated systems, we’re happiest (best brain chemistry) when we’re developing our abilities and finding challenging ways to make use of them. This adds our health to the health of the larger organism in which we participate. Moving in harmony with the flow of being around us is natural if the underlying model of the universe has ourselves as part of an organic whole. If we’re disrupting other aspects of the larger being we’re like a cancer, growing without heed of the damage we cause, sucking up vital resources without regard to the host. Much of what divides us and keeps us from acting together is imagery that places us outside of things, casting us as the one that tinkers with the machine. This is the same image as the large scale Maker, which also puts the traditional God outside us.
The Gaia Hypothesis came out decades ago. James Lovelock’s conception was of a consciousness within the earth itself. Just like the adjustments made in our own body, it responds to imbalances. This universal motion of homeostasis exists on every level and in every system, adapting to change to restore equilibrium. Persisting in the belief in man’s dominion over the earth may lead to the earth itself wiping out the source of destruction.
The materialistic world of separate things has resisted seeing our interconnectedness because it’s a threat to a competitive attitude. Accumulating and controlling more of the planet does not serve the good of the whole. But there’s evidence mounting of the grassroots shift to a more responsible way of seeing. Two website groups that have contacted me recently are dedicated to positive change. The Superforest site ( http://teamsuperforest.org/superforest/ ) sees the essence of problems and solutions in the world as revolving around manners. Treating everyone and everything with respect means being aware of the consequences of our actions. As they say in their Humanifesto, dumping pollutants in a river is bad manners. The narrow sight lines of a competitive stance focus on the end result and miss much of what’s happening now and the consequences of single-mindedness. A cooperative attitude is tuned to the moment because cooperation is all about adjusting to the circumstances and harmonizing with others. The current most popular entry at The Truth Contest site
( The Truth Contest ) focuses on the Present and the nature of consciousness. Their site is committed to an ongoing attempt to articulate truth, to search out the universals that bind us. They turn the idea of a contest on its head since there’s no competition, no prizes, just an on-going dialogue that features the entries that generate the most interest. Extending themselves for the good of the whole, these sites are examples of healing forces, the action of Gaia’s immune system. They give me faith in the goodness of human nature and optimism about the future. I’m happy to now be connected to both efforts.