Originally published at http://ecoanthropologist.blogspot.com/ on September 22, 2015.
Have you noticed lately we have an awesome planet? I mean, how great are clouds? All white and puffy against a background of deep blue. I realized once while I was gazing up at a cloud tinged with orangey pink on the edges that I was so much more connected with the cloud than I had ever really understood before. Every time I exhale I am breathing out water vapor and standing there breathing, my exhaled water vapor was in a small part helping to create the clouds in the sky. Clouds don’t have definitive edges…we like to think they do, but they don’t have definitive shapes either. The boundaries of clouds are fuzzy, hazy wisps of water vapor. Where does a cloud really begin and end? A small part of the cloud body was within my lungs. In that moment my experience of myself in the world expanded; my boundaries blurred and I marveled at my place in the world. Not on it, but deeply in it—an active, co-creative part of the planet. Who we are is very context dependent—where we begin and end as bodies and individuals isn’t as solid as we’ve been lead to believe.
We are utterly connected to this earth and each other. We need to touch soil because there are microbes in it which help us regulate our hormones. We need sunlight or we become depressed and our bones become deformed. We couldn’t exist as we are without everything else on this planet and in the universe. We are a part of the life of this planet with gifts to give and responsibilities to uphold. Somehow we’ve forgotten and become lost. The way we live now doesn’t work for most of us or for our planet.
On one level the planet doesn’t need us as much as we need it… but what if it wants us? What if we as a species have a role and a potential we haven’t yet realized? As Peter Senge discussed in Presence, What if we have something to give instead of just take? So many people think of the earth as our host and humanity is the bad guest, but in truth, the earth is our Mother and we are hurting her. We could say that our Earth Mother doesn’t need us, her ‘child,’ to survive and if we die, another species could arise to fulfill our lost potential. But, at the same time one child isn’t the same as another and perhaps our Mother might miss us and mourn the tragedy of our choices.
It is astonishing to understand the impact a single species can have within this vast web of life on this earth. It is astonishing to glimpse how spectacularly life maintains such dynamic balance on this planet. If we as the human species on earth decided to work with this web of life, what impact could we have? Every species on this planet has a role, a niche. What is our niche?
I have heard many people say humanity is like a virus, but at this time I think ‘cancer’ is a better analogy than a ‘virus’ because we weren’t always so destructive and imbalanced. And not all people and cultures treat the planet this way. I think it’s unfair to paint all of humanity with the ‘virus’ or ‘cancer’ brush. Just like a living organism some cells maintain their place and contribute to the life of the whole while the cells of the western world have forgotten their place and role in the wider web and are now wreaking havoc—like a cancer. The way I understand it, cancer is when a cell or cells in an organism ‘forgets’ it is part of the whole and breaks the balance thinking only of its growth and its life, stealing nutrients and ravaging the larger body. Humans are a part of the larger earth body (not a foreign invader like a virus) and we’ve forgotten who we are. We are under a spell of separation.
Cancer can be healed and balance restored while a virus must be purged from the body. While most traditional cancer treatments try to kill the cancer cells, causing great harm to the larger body, newer more holistic treatments and drugs are focusing on reminding those cells of who they are through epigenetic tags (switching off the genes and codes demanding unrestricted growth). The results have been amazing along with alternative treatments focusing on restoring balance to the body. Those of us rising up for sustainability are like the immune system of the earth or perhaps even ‘imaginal cells’ creating an entirely new way of being. But rather than eradicate the ‘bad’ cells, we are trying to remind people of who they really are and of their place on the earth and in the greater cosmos. Obviously this cancer model is just a model and not a perfect fit, but I think it describes our impact a little better. At the very least, it offers hope for us to restore balance with our earth.
So…are you a virus, cancer cell, or awakened immune/imaginal cell?
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