Such a fundamental aspect of all conscious life on Planet Earth.
As many of you know, weekend posts on Learning from Dogs are usually pretty innocuous. But two things came together to make me want to offer today’s central thoughts while they were fresh and clear in my mind.
The first thing flowed from good friend, John Hurlburt. Together with Jon Lavin, John had helped me develop my Statement of Purpose for my book. It was John who proposed a chapter under the heading of “The biological interconnectedness of all conscious earthly life“; a proposal I embraced with open arms.
The second thing was that Alex Jones, he of the blog The Liberated Way, published a post yesterday that, succinctly and beautifully, supported John Hurlburt’s thesis.
What do we mean by the idea that all of us are connected? (…. and ignoring the many of you who wonder why the question even has to be asked.)
I’m going to answer that most fundamental of all questions in this rather roundabout manner.
As someone who in previous times has been a glider pilot (aka sailplane in US speak), and a long-distance sailor (Tradewind 33), the weather about me was very much part of my life. Long ago I came to love clouds. Yesterday morning we had to take puppy Oliver to the vet and, unusually for this time of year in Southern Oregon, overhead there were beautiful grey stratus clouds covering 90% of the sky. There wasn’t the time to grab my camera but the following stock photograph found on the web is close to what we saw.
Still en-route in answer to the question, take a look at the next photograph; also from the web.
Now to the next photograph. (Hang on in there!)
See how the road, a man-made road stretching away to the horizon, is such an intimate part of the landscape and the sky.
Now to my final photograph.
I see a strong and clear theme behind these four beautiful images. A theme that answers the question of what we mean by the idea that all of us are connected.
It is this.
Our planet’s atmosphere gives us all that we need to live. All the oxygen and water and other essentials for all of life. Over millions of years it has provided all that life has needed to evolve and grow.
The land prospered. Beautiful animals arrived. Then came man and over time he left his mark on the lands of the planet. For aeons of time, man and animals shared their lives upon the land. Indeed, man and animals frequently demonstrated they had the capacity to love each other without denying the fact that both man and animals, in many cases, were also meat-eaters. To state the obvious, the beauty of the obvious, is to say that everything on this planet is connected under Nature. Man, animals, lands: all part of that same Nature.
Let me close by republishing with Alex’s permission his post from yesterday.
One in nature
The joy of knowing nature and self are one.
Sitting upon a fallen dead tree, one that could have but did not kill me when it fell in the storms last year, an orange butterfly flew and settled next to me. Here we were, butterfly and I, enjoying the warm sun sitting on the same tree trunk like two people on a park bench. The butterfly would after a time fly away returning later to sit next to me. In this moment I shared something in common with this butterfly, different species, but living on and coming from the same planet earth.
Another day it is raining, I huddle under the garden conifers eating raspberries, watching the clouds empty their water upon a thirsty garden, my cat Pebbles sitting at my feet. Out of the fallen branches two little mice played, oblivious to me and the cat, which did not seem to notice them.
For many people there are degrees of separation from nature, us and them. For some like me, Ubuntu, I am because we are. There is only connection, the animals and I are one.
Camping in the rain, a knocking at the tent door. I looked out of the tent, I looked into the eyes of a frog, which then vanished into the rainy darkness.
Yesterday, I wrote a post under the title of Running on empty!I listed just a few recent items that had left me feeling very dispirited. Trust me, not a familiar place!
I also raised the question ……
All of this is sending out a message. The message that if we are not very, very careful this could be the end-game for human civilisation on this Planet.
But do you know what really puzzles me?
It’s that this message is increasingly one that meets with nods of approval and words of agreement from more and more people that one sees going about one’s normal life.
…… then didn’t expand on what was puzzling me!
Let me come at this again; in full!
But do you know what really puzzles me? It is the terrible lethargy across so many societies. The lack of any substantial social and political force for change. Especially, when so many scientists involved in climate research are warning we are leaving it dangerously late.
I’m no psychologist; far from it. But I want to recount a true story that gave me an insight into one of my own delusions. Please stay with me because it does have a message at the end of it! 😉
Many years ago, I spent 5 years living on a boat in Larnaca in Cyprus. My boat was a wonderful heavy-displacement ocean-going yacht. A type known as a Tradewind 33. Here is a picture of my boat.
For years I had devoured all the books written by the great yacht sailors who had sailed the oceans, many of them completing solo circumnavigations of the world. Part of me wanted to sail the oceans.
Living on a boat close to me was Les Powles. Many will not have heard of Les but this quiet, softly-spoken man knows a thing or two about solo ocean sailing. As an article in The Guardian newspaper explained (in part):
In the 1980s and 90s a British man called Les Powles sailed three times round the world – always single-handedly, once non-stop. He couldn’t afford a radio transmitter, and on his greatest adventure he didn’t speak to anyone for 329 days. At 84, his circumnavigating days are now behind him, but he still lives on his boat, the Solitaire. What’s the appeal of sailing, I asked him. “It’s the solitude. When you’re out at sea on your own, there’s no government or bankers to worry about. You’re not responsible to anyone but yourself.”
Three times around the world – solo!
Thus getting to know Les was a great inspiration in getting me over the hurdle of can I really do this! (Les once said to me “the first three days are the worst!”)
Thus it came about that I departed Larnaca and worked my way Westwards along the Mediterranean, eventually arriving in Gibraltar. After a few days getting ‘Songbird’ ready for my first ocean leg, Gibraltar to the Azores, I took a deep breath and headed West out into the Atlantic Ocean. Frankly, I was a tad too late to be starting out but the thought of spending a Winter in and around Gibraltar was too much to contemplate and, anyway, it was only 8 or 9 days sailing to the Azores; a distance of 1,125 land miles or 980 nautical miles.
Fewer than 48-hours before my estimate of coming into Horta Marina on the Azores island of Faial, Songbird of Kent was struck by an early, fierce Winter gale. I seem to recall it was touching Force 10 Beaufort Scale (54 – 63 mph or 48 – 55 knots).
Anyway, it just about finished me off: literally as well as psychologically! I was so frightened, so utterly scared that I could think of nothing else other than getting to Horta and never going sailing again.
It revealed my delusion!
It proved that I had been in love with the courageousness of those many ocean sailors that I had read about. In love with the idea of a solo Atlantic crossing and being seen as a courageous hero. But, in truth, utterly in denial about what ocean sailing was really about!
So with the theme of delusion in your head, have a read of a recent post by George Monbiot. The post is called Are We Bothered? It is republished with the kind permission of George.
Are We Bothered?
May 16, 2014
The more we consume, the less we care about the living planet.
By George Monbiot, published on the Guardian’s website, 9th May 2014
That didn’t take long. The public interest in the state of the natural world stimulated by the winter floods receded almost as quickly as the waters did. A YouGov poll showed that the number of respondents placing the environment among their top three issues of concern rose from 6% in mid-January to 23% in mid-February. By early April – though the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had just published two massive and horrifying reports – the proportion had fallen back to 11%.
Sustaining interest in this great but slow-burning crisis is a challenge no one seems to have mastered. Only when the crisis causes or exacerbates an acute disaster – such as the floods – is there a flicker of anxiety, but that quickly dies away.
Why is it so difficult to persuade people to care about our wonderful planet, the world that gave rise to us and upon which we wholly depend? And why do you encounter a barrage of hostility and denial whenever you attempt it (and not only from the professional liars who are paid by coal and oil and timber companies to sow confusion and channel hatred)?
The first thing to note, in trying to answer this question, is that the rich anglophone countries are anomalous. In this bar chart (copied from the website of the New York Times) you can see how atypical the attitudes of people in the US and the UK are. Because almost everything we read in this country is published in rich, English-speaking nations, we might get the false impression that the world doesn’t care very much.
This belief is likely to be reinforced by the cherished notion that we lead the world in knowledge, sophistication and compassion. The bar chart puts me in mind of the famous quote perhaps mistakenly attributed to Gandhi. When asked by a journalist during a visit to Britain, “What do you think of Western civilization?”, he’s reputed to have replied, “I think it would be a good idea.”
Our erroneous belief that we are more concerned about manmade climate change than the people of other nations informs the sentiment, often voiced by the press and politicians, that there’s no point in acting if the rest of the world won’t play its part. For example, last year the Chancellor, George Osborne, remarked:
“I don’t want us to be the only people out there in front of the rest of the world. I certainly think we shouldn’t be further ahead of our partners in Europe.”
But we’re not “the only people out there in front of the rest of the world.” In fact we’re not in front at all. As this map produced by Oxford University’s Smith School suggests, we are some way behind not only some other rich nations but also a number of countries much poorer than ours.
As for the US, Australia and Canada, they are ranked among the worst of all: comprehensively failing to limit their massive contribution to a global problem. We justify our foot-dragging with a mistaken premise. Our refusal to stop pumping so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is pure selfishness.
For years we’ve been told that people cannot afford to care about the natural world until they become rich; that only economic growth can save the biosphere, that civilisation marches towards enlightenment about our impacts on the living planet. The results suggest the opposite.
As you can see from the following graph, the people consulted in poorer countries feel, on average, much guiltier about their impacts on the natural world than people in rich countries, even though those impacts tend to be smaller. Of the nations surveyed, the people of Germany, the US, Australia and Britain feel the least consumer guilt; the people of India, China, Mexico and Brazil the most.
The more we consume, the less we feel. And maybe that doesn’t just apply to guilt.
Perhaps that’s the point of our otherwise-pointless hyperconsumption: it smothers feeling. It might also be the effect of the constant bombardment of advertising and marketing. They seek to replace our attachments to people and place with attachments to objects: attachments which the next round of advertising then breaks in the hope of attaching us to a different set of objects.
The richer we are and the more we consume, the more self-centred and careless of the lives of others we appear to become. Even if you somehow put aside the direct, physical impacts of rising consumption, it’s hard to understand how anyone could imagine that economic growth is a formula for protecting the planet.
So what we seem to see here is the turning of a vicious circle. The more harm we do, the less concerned about it we become. And the more hyperconsumerism destroys relationships, communities and the physical fabric of the Earth, the more we try to fill the void in our lives by buying more stuff.
All this is accompanied in the rich anglophone nations with the extreme neoliberalism promoted by both press and politicians, and a great concentration of power in the hands of the financial and fossil fuel sectors, which lobby hard, in the public sphere and in private, to prevent change.
So the perennially low level of concern, which flickers upwards momentarily when disaster strikes, then slumps back into the customary stupor, is an almost inevitable result of a society that has become restructured around shopping, fashion, celebrity and an obsession with money. How we break the circle and wake people out of this dreamworld is the question that all those who love the living planet should address. There will be no easy answers.
The importance of staying grounded in the face of the oncoming storm.
A few days ago, I exchanged emails with Jon Lavin. In the early days of Learning from Dogs, Jon used to write the occasional post, one of which seems highly relevant some three years later. I will republish it tomorrow.
Jon and I go back a few years and most who know me know that it was Jon’s counselling back in 2007 that opened my eyes to something that, literally, changed my life. For the better, I hasten to add!
In our recent email exchange, Jon wrote this:
Just started back at work today. A bit of a shock to the old system! Am wondering what to set my sanity sights on for this coming year in the middle of almost total uncertainty.
Of course! How obvious! The need to ensure that our lives contain anchors of stability, safe places to curl up in, metaphorically speaking, where we can seek refuge from the winds of change. Otherwise, we run the very real risk of being overcome by the uncertainty of the future.
The resonance with small boats and the sea is obvious, and unavoidable in the case of yours truly.
For five years I lived on and sailed a Tradewind 33, Songbird of Kent; my base being Larnaca on the island of Cyprus at the Eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. Contrary to the image of the Mediterranean, it wasn’t uncommon to experience some ‘interesting’ weather; there were times when it could turn very nasty!
The comfort, physical and mental, offered by being tucked up in a small bay, listening to the storm about one, while riding securely to your anchor was beyond imagination.
Jon’s comment underscores the incredible importance of each of us knowing what anchors us to a secure place. So, like any sailor, always keep a weather eye open for those early signs of a storm, and cast your anchor in good time.
Needless to say, having a loving dog or two in one’s life provides a wonderful storm-proof anchor.