It’s An Inside Job
How Do We Create Communities to Which All of Us Can Belong?
Originally published on Center for Humans and Nature
As I begin to gather my thoughts about this compelling question, I cannot begin without acknowledging the beauty, depth of wisdom and articulate thought that have been expressed by others on this topic about their experiences of community. That the true nature of existence is interdependence. That the emptiness felt throughout humanity in the 21st century stems from our alienation from Nature. Heartfelt mantras born out of the reality of love of and connection with others as the remedy for our global problems. The coining of the lovely word “cherishism.” And the deep wisdom expressed as understanding that only by aiming toward something higher will we truly belong to our communities.
So I can only add to these august writings by digging deep and expressing what lives in my heart — the certainty that the higher state that informs everything and toward which we aim ourselves is Nature herself.
Nature is, in reality, a system of forces, out of which bloom her four levels called inanimate, vegetative, animal and human. These forces have names such as interconnection, altruism, balance, harmony, interdependence, unity. These are not just ideas, but realities of how nature works that have been shown through research into every branch of science. All of nature operated on these principles until the human species evolved. Then everything began to change because we are the species that violate these principles.
“Things are highly interdependent. The very concepts of “we” and “they” are becoming irrelevant. War is out of date because our neighbors are parts of ourselves. We see this in economic, educational and environmental issues. Although we may have some ideological differences or other conflicts with our neighbor, economically and environmentally we share essentially the same country, and destroying our neighbor is destroying ourselves. It’s foolish.”
COVID-19 has taught us many things, but foremost among those lessons is a visual and dramatic picture of our global interdependence. In the blink of an eye, country by country, the world began to shut down in service to this miniscule bit of protoplasm. Nature embraces us all — for better or for worse — because in her we belong to each other.
Interdependence means that everybody and everything is intertwined as a single system, that every action you make and every thought and feeling you have exerts its influence on this system. Interdependence also means that every action, thought and feeling of every person is influencing everybody simultaneously.
The internet offers this definition: Globalization is the word used to describe the growing interdependence of the world’s economies, cultures, and populations, brought about by cross-border trade in goods and services, technology, and flows of investment, people, and information.
The definition is not inaccurate, but leaves out the essence of the meaning of globalization — Nature’s final organization of humanity into a community of mankind that covers the earth. We have advanced beyond clans and tribes and have now attained the manifestation of her plan that we all live together in harmony, as in a global village. We are only beginning to learn that we depend on each other for our very survival, so caring for each other is a necessity. We find ourselves in the 21st century thrust into a global community and we have no idea how live within it.
Imagine what would happen if animals behaved like people. Carnivores would kill their prey for fun and to boast until none was left to feed on. Herbivores would eat up all the grass until they, too, would starve. Species would deny other species access to grazing or hunting territories simply in order to maintain power and control. Animals would fight against each other not in order to feed themselves, but in order to dominate or humiliate or simply for sport. Once in power, dominant species would fight among themselves not just over authority, but they would kill each other in order to prevent their rivals’ offspring from posing future threats. They would ultimately destroy the environment that sustains them.
In the order of the development of the universe, the human species emerged as the fourth level of existence, after the inanimate, vegetative, and animal. We like to see ourselves as above the other levels — special, more advanced, more favored by Nature. Yet, we humans behave as beasts in clothing, having sunk below the level of the instinctual animal kingdom in our relationships with each other. We were granted thinking minds, so that we would understand the laws of nature, and rise above our human qualities to her higher principles. We have blatantly abused this gift, using it to kill each other and, ultimately, Mother Earth.
One author on this topic described the fierce sense of independence out of which America was born and that pervades American society, calling it, brilliantly, the John Wayne paradigm. Those of us old enough to remember Saturday afternoon kids’ double features watched this Hollywood-created icon, with his studied swagger and bad acting, vanquish the enemy and come out the hero. The characters he played, however, became heroes by killing others — “Indians,” foreign warriors, and outlaws — all in the service of their own glory and upholding the notion of exceptionalism and imperialistic politics in our national community. Wayne, and the movie industry in general, reflected back to us exactly how ego works in the world.
Ego is the individual and collective force within us that has driven us to develop technologies, the arts, social systems, a body of scientific research, and ever-expanding communities. Ego is also the force that demands that we satisfy our every desire even when our actions harm others. It is this force that has catapulted us away from the flow of nature and into the creation of the chaotic and dangerous world we now inhabit — an artificial one that is beginning to collapse.
The Fifth Level of Development
But all is not lost. We are privileged to be alive in these epochal times because we are witnessing the greatest transition of Nature that has yet to occur — from the human level of existence to the state for which Nature created us — and we are invited to participate. The earth was born out of the chaos created by the Big Bang and although we were not here to witness them, we can be sure that each transitional state, from one level to another, has been difficult and tumultuous. Moving from one state to another happens only when our current state has become unsustainable.
During a forum conducted by the Goi Peace Foundation, this was said by a futurist in attendance: “The new scientific story shows that the evolutionary process that made hostile, competitive ancient bacteria evolve into peaceful collaboration to produce huge new cells is the same process that is driving us to shift from competitive nations to a global family.”
We are learning that there is more than one way to organize functional systems, to produce order and balance; that the imperfect and flexible principles of nature lead to greater stability and resilience in natural systems than we have produced in ours-both technological and social-by following the mechanical laws we assumed were natural…On the whole, there seems to be good reason to believe our species’ recklessly egotistical and destructive phase is coming to an end with new knowledge that leads us back to ancient wisdom. We are capable of regaining our reverence for life, of replacing the drive to conquer with the will to cooperate, of remaking our engineered institutions, including our corporations, into living systems.
The reality of our times is that our technological development is finished. Many improvements on what has been discovered and invented continue to emerge, but nothing new has come along in more than a century. Space travel has been hailed as mankind’s newest frontier, but believing that there is an alternate planet to which we can escape after we kill this one is the epitome of greed and arrogance — ego. Transition to the new level means accepting that the present paradigm no longer serves us and seeking to create communities in which me may all thrive.
The Inner Landscape
The living, breathing John Wayne is dead, but his essence remains inside of us. Ego will struggle to survive unless we find something above it to motivate and direct us. Nature is relentlessly pushing us there and she will succeed. The question is whether or not we want more harsh prods — increased flooding, burning, quaking and erupting, more virulent viruses, the total collapse of our ecosystem — or can we beat Nature to the punch?
Imagine now what would happen if people behaved like animals. We would take from the earth what we need for survival and comfortable living and leave the rest for others. We would care for each other like mothers care for their children, supporting and nurturing, until each can stand on his or her own. We would exist side by side with other species, not judging their stripes, long necks, swaying trunks, plumage or multiple appendages, but admiring each for their uniqueness and contribution to the whole. Our communities would be organized around common needs and interests, and although leaders might emerge, we would ultimately govern ourselves based on the laws of Nature.
In essence, we would use our interdependence to work for us, not against us, by building social structures in alignment with our next level of evolution, those principles discussed above. We would live within them, through them, and by them because they are the blueprint for our relationships with each other granted to us by Nature herself.
If you read the other articles on this site that address this question about
building communities, you will notice an interesting thing. There is a
connection among the ideas presented. No grand schemes of marching,
legislating, orating, voting and so on in order to change the things that
don’t serve us are offered. Each writer acknowledges that this is inner work. It is a matter of what thoughts and feelings make up the inner landscape of
our beings. We are all somehow attracted to this community, our matching
energies connecting together. There is an inner resonance among us, an
interdependence of thought.
One author wrote: “Following on this idea that there is a symmetry between the inner and outer worlds, we might begin to see our global crisis as a collective initiation which each of us must, reluctantly, go through alone.” On one level she is correct, in that we individually build inside us an altruistic approach to each other, leaving egoism in the dust. When we attain this, our interconnection will cause altruism to blossom throughout the world.
Another writer says: “There are two key elements to this work of re-storying the Earth: first, coming to know the stories which are already existent in the land, and second, weaving our own stories into the fabric of the land, by engaging with it in ongoing acts of co-creation.” With whom do we co-create? With our Mother, the Nature that gave us life, and that will sustain us if we flow with her. This will be our new story.
Another author concludes her essay with these words: “’Communities to which we can all belong’ may not be a matter of thinking about it as much as a matter of living into it. Those who already do that can invite others to come along.”
Yes! Every essay speaks of how we must craft our attitudes and worldviews toward a world that includes and embraces everyone. They define the required inner attributes: love and good-will toward each other, cooperation, collaboration, respect, acceptance, connection, humility, shared emotion, and an immersion on some level in the integral and deterministic system called nature.
It is an inside job, inside Mother Nature, thus inside ourselves.