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We Are Not Alone

credit: Abdulaziz Almansour

credit: Abdulaziz Almansour

 Our present economic and industrial systems can only function to the extent that we insulate ourselves from our love and our pain.

~ Charles Eisenstein

In a recent piece entitled “Fear of a Living Planet,” Charles Eisenstein points out the collusion between scientism, our cultural story of separateness, and our destruction of nature. He writes about our culture’s inability to tolerate the idea or experience of the planet as alive, let alone sacred. As he puts it, “science (as we have known it) renders us alone in an alien universe. At the same time, it crowns us as its lords and masters, for if sentience and purpose inhere in us alone, there is nothing stopping us from engineering the world as we see fit.”

Eisenstein writes about our fear of allowing the planet to be anything but inert matter. This fear enables us to maintain an attitude of self-interest at the same time as it gives us a free pass. We don’t have to be accountable to anyone as long as we pretend we are the only ones here.

He is rightly critical of environmental activism that grows out of this same mechanistic world view of rationality and dispassionate pragmatism, for it is incapable of reaching beyond the human bubble of arrogant isolation, and therefore ultimately doomed. Such efforts cannot hope to succeed. It is the illusion of separation that enables and reinforces our destructiveness. As long as we keep believing that particular version of reality, we will keep creating a world where only we exist and everything else is annihilated.

We must connect with an experience of belonging to a world that is alive, diverse, relational, unfolding, mysterious, and sacred. The alternative is to remain utterly alone against a grey backdrop of inert matter, with nothing but our toys for company. The evidence is all around us: in such a reality our species is reduced to a profoundly toxic narcissism.

We are called instead to act from the felt understanding of our intimate connection to life, our interbeing… Knowing that our planet is alive, enables us to feel more, to care more, to be more, and to do more. But what does that look like? How do we cultivate that? How do we go beyond ideas and words to cultivate the experience of living, sacred nature?

Eisenstein does not go into this. But others have and continue to offer guidance. Bill Plotkin not only writes about cultivating the energy of embodied delight and depth, but also co-creates collaborative spaces to give these ideas expression. Teachers like David Abram show us how to steep in the experience of reverence for the aliveness of nature, to recover and revel in the richness of our animal selves.

There are many other guides doing similar work. Do you know some others? If so, please leave a comment and share them with us. We are so eager to know them.

2 Comments

  1. Francis Weller, Jon Young, Commonweal, Regenerative Design Institute, Stephen Jenkinson… I’m enjoying your blog. We share several deep interests – Plotkin, Abram, Joanna Macy, Francis Weller and Charles Eisenstein are all top of my list of teachers/influences.

    • Thank you for your generous comment! And thank you so much for adding those wonderful teachers to this list. I’ve read a few pieces by Francis Weller, but not his book. I’m especially intrigued by his community-building work. Same theme interests me about Stephen Jenkinson, who I first learned about through Ian MacKenzie’s beautiful films. It’s interesting, and undoubtedly no accident, that Weller and Jenkinson also share a focus on grief. Seems to me there’s a connection between being able to grieve, and being able to move forward in community that these two understand. Without grieving we remain immobilized and isolated.

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