It’s been said people reflect the environment they’re exposed to. This is particularly true at times when we are more emotionally excited. We remember trauma more so than the much more abundant time periods of the mundane. As children we’re in a perpetual state of excitation and wonder. As children, while we don’t have the wherewithal to absorb and retain the shaping events in the context of words, these events are nonetheless a powerful influence on the way we think and act later on.
We have a tendency to drape the cultural values and experiences we’re baptized in as a veil over our eyes and then use that veil as the filter through which we see each other and the world. A well traveled or deliberate individual might occasionally breach the veil and cross the cultural divide, at least intellectually, to see a bit of the common threads that weave together humanity. This is one such attempt, to understand the current state of our global culture and perhaps glimpse at some of the unrealized opportunity we may have at our disposal. With that understanding , perhaps we might dare to dabble our collective oar in the currents in which we ride to steer toward a more fulfilled state of being.
A coral community with a concentration of Madracis decactis on top of one of the pinnacles at Stetson Bank.
It is not beyond the pale to recognize that mankind has historically had to both literally and figuratively fight against nature in order to survive at times. In desperate times, this spawned the need to commit the most profane acts of cruelty and dehumanizing degradation, and over time this temporary necessity became inseparably intertwined with our collective cultural identity. Disease, predators, natural disasters and climate catastrophes came to be seen in some circles as things needed to be dominated in order to survive. This fight against nature was particularly pronounced in cultures that had to navigate harsher climates, endure famines and the like.
The same way an individual reflects the expressions of their local environment, cultures tend to reflect the environment they exist in and have been exposed to over time. The harsher climates some of us endured, spawned cultural reflections of themselves in the form of parasitic and predatory values that affected in the way we saw the world and each other. It shaped our myths, our cultural values and the relationship dynamic by which we pulsed – and these cultures that were refined in the fires of adversity became the warrior class of mankind. Although it has morphed into something far afield of its original appearance on the human cultural scene, war may have been spawned as a survival mechanism during desperate times. When we perceive our survival as being under threat, we opt to fight or take flight as a reaction. These fight and flight behaviors are an apt description of much of our history. Not everyone, everywhere, but as a trend, those with the capacity to dominate came to associate dominating nature, and each other, with “natural right” and “progress” – as the means of making a living on a cultural level.
The dominators came to dominate even those that didn’t have any need nor desire to live as expressions of fear – those that apply maximum pressure to nature’s bounty – that use exploitation on the altar of dehumanization to vacuum value toward the few at the expense of the many – those that sacrifice the future for the sake of the now and scorch the very earth that feeds them were born in these fires of adversity or carried on the cultural currents of those that spread these dominating values. The people who lived more in harmony with the body of life were eventually swallowed by those of us that developed concepts like property, debt, government, society, and duty as the means of establishing the false comfort of ownership and the false safety of the upper echelons of hierarchical safety. Expending societal skin to pleasure themselves…
Zayandeh-rood, a critical and life-sustaining river contaminated by oil, industrial wastes and chemicals illegally dumped in it
All of this dominance has not come without a cost. In beating back nature to continue existing, and then holding on to that fierce ritual of domination as a means of existing, we have sacrificed a portion of the spirit of life for the sake of the ritual of existence. We have deadened the opportunity of authentic relationship by staying prepared for the disaster we fear lurks in the shadows – that disaster we have come to expect and that we have also come to cultivate on our social landscape – and in so doing we have robbed ourselves of our own nature. Every organ in our body must willingly contribute something of nourishing value in the context of the community it exists in order for the body to maintain its integrity. Biology, at its core, is a gift economy, not a parasitic and predatory one. Each cell and organ in a body of any size lives in and depends on the rest of the community to share value for the sake of the collective being it depends on for life. In the long run it is a community principle that sustains us, not a dominance one. When the entire community operates on an economy based on sharing nourishing values with each other, we experience the comfort of community as well as the exhilaration of being able to navigate at our peak. Parasitic and predatory behaviors may be necessary to negotiate acute and terrible circumstances, but as a way of life, they become self destructive.
We now live in the echoes of a cultural tragedy of the commons – in the midst of treacherous waters where the social currency is aligned more with the notion that “If I do not participate in the harsh and dehumanizing coin of the realm, then I will be swallowed. I must exploit, I must dominate, I must compete, or I will be dominated.” In so acquiescing to the banality of evil stitched into the fabric of our cultural memory we have lost touch with the fact that cultivating the fullness of life requires we have a community and not a culture of exploitation – a community where we cultivate each others values instead of attempt to cease, dominate, and consume them. Although desperate times call for desperate measures, it is also true that we must gravitate back to our true nature lest we become the cause of the very thing we rail against. The dominator can become a victim of its own success – dominated by domination like a snake that eats its own tail. We must recognize that our tribe is earth, and our people are us – all of us – we must recognize that our body is the whole body of life – and that body is the Earth itself – it is not this local eddy of relationships we call our individual body. Our strength and our life depends on our capacity to express the community principle. The fullness any one of us can attain is contingent on what we collectively express in terms of community values. Every “I am” is because “we are”.
We need a world that recognizes the opportunity expressed through nature. We need a world that sees wealth as a function of giving to each other and cultivating nourishing relationships throughout the environment that lead to more life giving nourishment – and not from the seizure and demand from each other and the stripping of the environment. We need to use our individual voice in this choir – to sing that tune. To live in the context of a community that cultivates the fullness of life through sharing our best with each other. As a reward for this expression, we get to live in a world that cultivates our fullest experience of life and not one that keeps us beneath the threshold of our full potential. It is a self interested act to live by the community principle – to cultivate community. Our biological economy speaks to the validity of our own need to cultivate community through its structure. We need to contribute to the larger body of life in which we live and on which we depend in order for us to exist at all. Together we are one body of life. Divided we cultivate our own poverty.
If we were to do a sincere autopsy on the cause of our current predicament, we would not be able to trace blame to those that currently acquiesce to the “system” as it stands. Those of us that dominate are a cultural echo of fear, or a direct unwitting victim that cultivates an experience of life beneath the threshold of its full potential. We can become vectors of poverty, but not the cause. We would have to trace blame largely to a mindless conspiracy of environmental circumstances, accumulated over the years, which we now subliminally reflect and onto which we overlay our linguistic abstractions. As a global culture we reflect the full tapestry of our environmental experiences and perpetuate these on our social landscape as blindly as the dung beetle rolls it ball of waste across the dirt – we are a cultural expression of our phyletic memory – our cultural genetics were forged in the primordial soup of environmental circumstance.
We are social creatures by nature. We hunger for intimate nourishing community. It is our nature, it is the principle on which we sustain ourselves. Our need for intimacy with air, nourishing food and water sources, and the need to process and eliminate those entities in ways that benefit other life forms speaks to the interdependent community of life in which we live, and on which we depend for life. Our very structure is an expression of our nature. Should we choose to see it as the guide by which we might live, and through which we can thrive, we will act in service of our own best interest. To serve the community is to serve ourselves. We have yet to fully realize that our local community is Earth, and that we need to have a vested interest in each others success and well being to realize the full flower of that opportunity that exists in the context of the real government under which we all live – the laws of nature. To violate these laws, or to do anything less is to become the author of our own poverty and perhaps our own extinction. What has led to where we are will not take us forward. Like any womb, the thing that nourishes us to a certain point will strangle us if we do not emerge into the next paradigm of existence.
Each of us that understands the community principle as the way to nourish our future must do what we can to cultivate a wider expressions of this. Those of us on the cusp of this new paradigm of awareness must cultivate more tangible expressions. To move forward, we must integrate the community principle into our personal, community, business, governmental and environmental values. We can become authors of our collective wealth if, and only if, we recognize our individual potential depends on how much we collectively nourish the community of life in which we live, and on which we depend for life.