Separateness and Wholeness

Megalomaniac politicians are not really the cause of ecological catastrophe. Sociopathic CEOs are not really the cause of ecological catastrophe. Capitalism is really not the cause of ecological catastrophe. Though we do need to be rid of all of them.

This catastrophe, shared equally by politicians, bankers, businessmen, engineers, academics, carers, educators, adults and children everywhere, and with every other form of life, is not caused by human greed, selfishness and agression.

It is caused by ignorance.

Selfishness and greed, capitalism and debt, tyranny and bigotry, insecure politicians, avaricious bankers and exploitative corporations are simply the explicit agencies through which that implicit ignorance functions.

It is not ignorance in general that has precipitated and will entrench this catastrophe. The knowledge and understanding accumulated by so many is potentially available to all.

It is a very specific ignorance. One that in being consistently overlooked has spawned a destructiveness incalculable in its depth and effect.

It is ignorance of human nature.

Of course we know a great deal about the human body. We also know some about our remarkable minds. We know a lot about our behaviour, collectively and individually. Yet all this knowledge has not even managed to secure genuine happiness for those to whom it is freely available.

A truly happy human being is a rare creature. Yet all human beings long for happiness. Not only for themselves, but also for those that they love.

This longing comes hand in hand with deep feelings of insecurity, isolation and impotence. These feelings express themselves through anxiety, mistrust and fear into stupid, selfish, agressive behaviours. We know about this. We are living this.

Yet these feelinsg also have a deeper root. That root is alienation. We feel alienated from the sources of power. We feel alienated from nature. We feel alienated from each other. We even feel alienated from ourselves: continuously censoring, restraining and judging our actions and inactions.

All of this leaves us deeply marooned in a sense of ineradicable separateness. We even feel separate from those that we love. Even also when they are right beside us.

Of course, it is obvious, we only have to open our eyes to see, that we are separate. To touch you i have to reach out and cross the space that separates us: even when you lie beside me. When i watch you eating i receive no nutrients at all. My lungs can not provide you with oxygen. On all this we must agree.

Yet does this actually mean that we actually are separate?

It is equally easy to see that in many ways we are not separate at all. We are deeply affected by the actions and words of others: in so many ways. Nevertheless we are still left with a deep existential sense of separateness. Within that separateness we think and feel. From that separateness, that collective alienation, we act; we act with deep destructiveness.

This does not have to be so.

It is not human nature to be greedy, selfish and agressive. It is human nature to walk and talk. It is human nature to create and build. It is human nature to sing and dance. It is human nature to celebrate. It is human nature to love and be loved. It is human nature to want to understand. It is human nature to co-operate. It is human nature to give.

Of course it is also human nature to need to survive. It is human nature to want to flourish. It is human nature to need to feel safe and secure. It is human natute to want to express yourself as fully, freely and deeply as possible.

Our nature is not monolithic and certainly it can generate selfish and agressive behaviour; sometimes it needs to.

Yet when selfishness, greed, competetiveness and agression become our self image, our identity we are in deep trouble. If we believe that it is human nature to be greedy, selfish and agressive, then why try to change our competetive, destructive behaviours? How can we better our nature?

Perhaps we can’t. Yet perhaps we aren’t competetive, greedy and agressive by nature. Perhaps they are only superficial ways that our nature expresses itself when we feel unsafe, insecure, isolated, alienated, separate from the rest of the universe.

The problem that we are facing is one of separateness overwhelming and destroying wholeness. Most obviously perhaps this destruction of wholeness is playing out in the devastation of the natural world. Only a fool would deny that an organism not only depends on its environment, but is an expression of it.

We may be able to identify distinct animal and vegetable species. We may be able to identify discrete local activities of natural populations and even their individual members. This individuality neither contradicts nor denies wholeness. Quite the reverse. There would be no animals without plants. There would be no plants without insects. There would be no insects without animals.

Nature is a circle, a wheel, a dynamic, mutating wholeness.

It is incredibly creative, adaptable, resilient. Not inexhaustibly though. Robust and resilient though it may in some ways be, it is also extremley delicate. The balance of nature is a multidimensional internetwork of finely interacting parts and nodes. They all depend to some extent on each other. They all depend to a great extent on each other. They all depend completely on each other.

Is it a co-incidence that as global heating rises to almost irresistibly dangerous levels, the insect population is in drastic decline?  Is it a co-incidence that as nature’s diversity is being rapidly reduced the quality of topsoil is almost eroded?

Of course it isn’t. Nature is a dynamic singularity. It is resilient and adaptable, but, it cannot withstand the relentless onslaught of human stupidity for very much longer.

Whether this devastating onslaught continues may still be in part be up to you. You know that you can learn. You have been learning all your life. Perhaps you can learn to change your behaviour. Perhaps you can even learn to change your attitudes: to nature, to growth, to security, to others, to the ‘other’.

What you most need to do. What i most need you to do. What everyone and everything most needs you to do is to get in touch with wholeness.

Your sense of separateness will not be eroded by thinking about it. It will not be eroded by reading about wholeness, ecology, systems or interconnectedness. It will only be eroded by experiencing wholeness.  It will only be eroded by experiencing yourself as wholeness. It will only be eroded by experiencing yourself as The Wholeness.

This is not a plug for mysticism, nor any escapist esotericism. There are no spirits lurking in the heart of trees that we can propitiate. There are neither angels nor demons watching over our shoulders that we can do a deal with.

We have caused this problem. Only we can solve it. We can solve it only with the tools that nature has give us: with our human nature.

These tools can be encapsulated in three great gifts, three powers, three expressions of intelligence. The capacity to feel. The power to act. The ability to think.

Through these powers, these tools we have brought wholeness to the brink of extinction. Yet with these tools we can also rediscover wholeness. With them we can honour and express that wholeness. We may even be able to sustain a natural wholeness on this planet that includes the human race.

We use our ability to think to guide our power to act. Yet our ability to think is subconsciously driven by our capacity to feel. When we feel separate, we think and act selfishly. If we feel insecure, we think and act competetively. When we feel inadequate, we think and act with greed.

You can feel insecure and you can feel safe. You can feel inadequate and you can feel complete. You can feel fragmented and you can feel whole.

It is in our capacity to feel that we can find the resilience and resources to sustain the wholeness upon which we all depend. It is our core power, our most formidable resource. Yet its full power lies unrecognised by secular, religious and spiritual culture, and inaccessible to our needs.

To release this power, which is our spiritual power, we need only one thing: courage. Particularly the courage, the willingness to feel. This willingness has of course been eroded in all of us by the history of our suffering. We none of us want, like to feel pain.

Yet we do, and we must. We must be willing to feel pain if we are to fully experience joy. We must be willing to feel pain if we are to fully experience our own nature. We must be willing to feel anything and everything if we are to understand our nature.

We must be willing to feel fully the anxiety of our sense of separateness. So deeply that it dissolves into the deeper awareness of wholeness. As it does.

Only by way of our shadows can we come to the light that we are. Only by way of our weakness fully experienced can we come to our strength. Only by deep experience of our solitude can we find our deepest most potent solidarity.

Only then will we be able to find the resilience, wisdom, compassion and resolve to meet this catastrophe with the intelligence, integrity and dignity that we need.