Author’s Note

          This short piece of writing is a creative philosophical expression whose genre is a variation on the theme of deep ecology.  Deep ecology . . . “is described as “deep” because it is regarded as looking more deeply into the reality of humanity’s relationship with the natural world, arriving at philosophically more profound conclusions than those of mainstream environmentalism”, states one source.

Here, the style of writing is meant to be terse and lacking in detail in order to retain a close connection between the parts and to better see the structure and its progression – not just so many parts put together but a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. I am more interested in the synthesis and the ultimate point this synthesis attempts to make.  This lack of detail then leaves room for the reader to extrapolate the details from the whole based on their own understanding and experience in life, to fill in the blanks as they see fit, or not.

Who is the final authority on what is excessive and what is enough? Are these subjective terms only, or is there a biological and evolutionary basis for them, grounded in reality and scientific truth, embedded within us and the whole of life?  This is one of the underlying themes running throughout this writing, and how our personal understanding of these terms strongly influences how we “play our part” in the larger community of life. For ourselves to become an authority, to know how to play our part, we must have a deep understanding of the nature of life, and the science of ecology, with its implications on the nature of living, is the essential tool that guides us in this process and with which we may develop a corresponding ecology of being.

Because this writing has such a quick tempo while at the same time being relatively compressed, it is best to read it slowly, perhaps pause from time to time, or only read it in portions, and then step back and contemplate and question.  Then maybe, in the end, a seed will have been planted.


A DEEP ECOLOGY

Andrew Fiori

1

          As creatures, we are fundamentally free only through our complete dependence on something larger than our autonomous self, a whole of which we are an integral part. All creatures have evolved in relationship to the whole that is the earth and thus each is constrained by it.  Their freedom is necessarily limited as they must play their part in helping to maintain its integrity and stability, which in turn is the root of their freedom. It is thus, concerning each of all the creatures that live on this earth, the question with which our interest lies is not what a creature is in isolation, solely of significance unto itself, but what it is in relationship to the world as a whole, how it fits in to this world by playing its part, and how its ability to play its part is largely dependent on other creatures to fulfill theirs. Though all creatures are the same in their desire to live, this desire is inherently and necessarily restrained within a framework of cooperation.

Here on earth, the living world exists at the confluence of two fundamental, yet seemingly independent and opposing movements: the process of growth, most often synonymous with life, and the process of senescence, most often synonymous with death. Yet, it is together in harmony as one that they constitute the cycle of life, the means and movement of the great balancing force in the world known as evolution. Death is not merely an absence of life but a transformation, an ultimate form of self-renewal as a creature is absorbed back into the endless cycles of material creation. And before a creature is reincarnated in this way it is given the chance to plant a seed. Should this seed grow and make this world its home, a creature may continue to influence the world even as it has passed away.

Through these most basic means, life on this finite planet is imbued with the capacity to forever flourish and evolve. By and large, these processes are for the benefit of the whole, yet so long as a creature plays its part within the whole specific to its evolution, its growth and continuance are simultaneously nurtured. In this interconnected world, a single act is in effect many, simultaneously influencing and supporting other processes and other creatures distant in time and space through an infinite web of relations. These fundamental relationships and processes, having formed in perfect reciprocity, over time created a world that is complex, dynamic, diverse, and perfectly stable in balance. So long as this order and stability persist all creatures may continue to play their part in harmony sowing the seeds of creation.

Inherent to this perfectly balanced world is a proportion of imbalance produced by the change that is the inevitable result of the ongoing movement of all life processes. In whatever way it manifests, this imbalance acts as the stimulus to balance, and it is the interaction between the two in which one is forever evoking the other that is the impetus to the continual movement of evolution. Almost everything a creature does is an effort to maintain balance, to fulfill their essential needs in the face of this perpetual change so as to remain healthy and whole. It is this effort that is the very root of their desire, and how a creature desires to fulfill its essential needs in the present further determines its ability to do so in the future.

Because the reciprocity of the natural world manifests with such efficiency, organized as it is to automatically and instantaneously heal all disturbance to its order, the difference between balance and imbalance is often imperceptible, manifesting more like an undulating flow than a series of fits and starts. It is thus, unbeknownst to most humans, perfect balance as typically believed to be a static state is death, for the essence of life is constant movement, perfect balance a moving target, and our every attempt to keep things static only restricts our freedom to move with this flow, to maintain balance in the face of change.

It is intuitively understood by all creatures, due to the inherently slow pace of materials recycling, the amount of energy available at any given time and place, both within us and outside us, is finite. Thus, they are not only opportunists who are quick to utilize available abundance but also conservationists who follow the way of least resistance as the most beneficial to their survival. Those creatures best at maintaining balance with a minimum of resistance by means of a sensitive reciprocation, with which they conserve energy by reducing stress, are those most likely to persist. For to remain balanced in the face of change a creature must allocate much of its energy to constant self-maintenance and the absence of energy to fulfill this essential task quickly leads to its demise.

Thus, we are presented with the greatest paradox of life: Evolution, by means of this adaption, is an ever-increasing resistance to death and yet death remains forever an essential part of the process of evolution. In the preservation of the whole, it is not death nor life that is necessarily preferred one above the other, but that in the interval between the two life is lived with the greatest efficiency through the perfect balance of the many varied processes which support it. And for a creature to live efficiently it must find its own perfect balance in the world by somehow knowing what to resist and what not, and when, while living in accord with these processes. Yet, despite a creature choosing the path of least resistance, their life more prolonged than it might otherwise be, it cannot be maintained indefinitely. For simply to be alive is to be in an inherent and unavoidable state of resistance to death, and eventually, by necessity, the balance is eventually tipped and in senescence and death, a creature is returned to a state of greater simplicity as it is recycled back into the endless stream of material creation. Change is thus the very root of life, and so long as it fits within the natural order, change is fertility. And it is this continuous flow of fertility as a means to renewal that imparts stability and continuity to life.

2

          Most humans are aware of the changeful character of this ever-evolving world, yet often they are only subconsciously aware of how it can manifest within as anxiety and fear. This existential anxiety and fear are felt most poignantly at times of significant loss yet more routinely from a misunderstanding and lack of acceptance in the natural order, particularly its fundamental characteristic of change. Instead of lessening our anxiety and fear by coming to understand their nature and origin, we attempt to overcome them by reordering the world to how we desire it to be. At its most extreme, this involves changing the very nature of our relationship to life, largely by overlooking its interconnectedness, so as to falsely permit us to alter or altogether remove from life those things which make us anxious and fearful.

It is thus, the tacit goal of the human-made order is to have complete control over the world, and to do so we must completely isolate ourselves from it so it no longer influences our behavior, thus restricting our freedom. Yet, this is certain death, for many of the things we wish to absent from life, particularly loss and death, are in due course essential for its continuation, intrinsic to its self-renewing character. Though they limit the individual, they prolong the whole, of which we have no choice but to be a part. The more we isolate ourselves from the world, the more we find our sense of self diminished, for in truth, our self is but the sum of our relations, not to say our dependencies, which without we are literally nothing. So long as this as it results in separation, this reordering is bound to fail.

Nonetheless, upon a separate human-made order we become completely dependent as we give our full faith in its seemingly secure structure of materials and means, values and beliefs.  Yet unbeknownst to us, the human-made substitutions we come to rely on are not wholly sufficient, often a distraction and even destructive of the very means necessary to the ultimate end of healing ourselves through our reuniting with the source and the fulfillment and significance found therein. As a result, we end up consuming vast amounts of resources, severely stressing the natural and human-made orders alike with our excessive demand. Isolated within the human-made order, we are unable to see, feel, and understand the full consequences of our actions upon the wider world and unwittingly we are transformed from humble and cooperative creatures into selfish and disruptive ones.

For in this struggle to find balance and fulfillment in the world, our attention is turned inward by our desire, and our mind is drawn into a state of self-absorption through which we become conditioned to think and act in ways more often than not detrimental to our well-being. At the core of this conditioning is a blinding, excessive self-concern, an inability to let go of our preoccupation with our self and our affairs. Gradually, imperceptibly, our mind develops into a separate world of its own, solely in relation to the human-made order and its norms. Though largely out of touch with reality we come to believe it is more real and attempt to make reality conform to it at all costs through the great expenditure of energy and effort. This conditioned mind thus becomes an ever-present source of resistance to the simplicity, openness, and fluidity of our being and the whole of life.

Resistance, as it exists within our mind and manifests in our behavior, is always the result of a fundamental disconnect between our mind and reality caused by our desire for circumstances to be other than what they are. And, to a varying degree, resistance always generates stress, which pulls a creature out of balance, and becomes a drain on its energy as it tries to relieve itself of its discomfort, to regain balance. When done in excess, and in absence of appropriate means, the result is the fearful desiring and holding on that is selfishness.

Though this resistance is at first largely imperceptible it becomes glaringly evident when it unconsciously triggers our desire and our grasping in our attempt to assuage our anxiety and fear, to feel secure in the face of change, with something to hold onto. Yet, this effort is ultimately ineffective, for everything is subject to change, not only the object of our desire in which we seek security, but us – our feelings, thoughts, and perceptions – and consequently our relations. Our holding on in resistance to change only increases our anxiety and fear, our desire and our grasping, as we repeatedly discover with the passing of time that, in fact, there is nothing to hold onto that is not itself, in some way, subject to change. It seems then that the world is inherently flawed, as in this way it continually disappoints us. But what is truly flawed is our perspective, for the world nonetheless provides us with what we need. Furthermore, the energy consumed in holding on, and subsequent effort to renew it, is what makes holding on, instead, the greatest source of stress and insecurity in our life as it forever demands of us. And, once again, in this, we mistakenly fault the world, for it is us who are demanding, and the world only responds to this behavior in kind due to the simple fact that everything has a cost, in one way or another, entails the expenditure of energy. Yet, we rarely question this pattern of acquisition, for in the fulfillment of our basic needs it is central to our life, indeed, our survival depends on it.

Despite its glaring inefficiencies, under the blinding influence of the human-made order, we come to relate being with having. Whether an object, identity, or idea, the central assumption of our thinking is that to have is to be. Thus, the more we have the more we are, and to not have anything is to be nothing. And yet, the more we have, the more we have to lose, and the greater our resistance to life. Layer upon layer of resistance, the source is thus obscured and our excessive desire becomes the primary influencing force behind our actions, that is until the world tells us in a way we cannot dismiss that we must stop.

For although this conditioning blinds us to the world it likewise increases the likelihood of our awakening it, yet without order or intention. Having lost touch with reality, we eventually and inevitably come into conflict with the inexorable and ever-present truths of life, the natural restraints embedded in the natural order which altogether may be known as the limits. Sooner or later, by means of the limits, our mind is forcefully awakened from its state of self-absorption, and our sense of reality is brought sharply into question as we are compelled to question the reality of our conditioned self. In the confusion and uncertainty, we encounter our humility and are encouraged to let go of our attachment to our conditioned self whereby we may relieve ourselves of our resistance. By letting go we are brought to humility, and through humility, we learn how to voluntarily let go. In the end, the resistance and consequent stress characteristic of the conditioned mind become an impetus to change, compelling us to revise our perspective on life, and creating the fertile conditions in which something greater may potentially grow from within.

Everything has limits because everything is in balance. And everything is in balance because everything is in relationship, that is, in balance with something else. It is thus, in this finite and interconnected world we are always living within limits, indeed, we cannot live without them for they are the very result of the structure upon which our lives are built. They are present not only in the activity of physical growth and consumption characteristic of all creatures, but in the strictly human capacity for knowledge, language, thought, perception, and free will. It is the limits that make us who we are as creatures, by defining what we can and can’t or should not do. They teach us that a creature is only as strong and enduring as what it is a part, and in its complete dependence, it is equally fragile. Everything is restrained by a multiplicity of limits from within and without which altogether are the means embedded in the natural world by which everything remains receptive, balanced, and whole.

In our opposition to the fundamental nature of life, working against it instead of with it, we have made living into a problem we are forever needing to solve. For, the more we diverge from the natural order the more it pulls us back, that is, the more resistance we encounter.  The greater control we attempt to exert over the world to the fulfillment of our desire the more likely we conflict with the limits and eventually we fall out of balance and are forced to correct our course. For both the collective and the individual alike the essential lesson of the limits is the same: We cannot maintain our fundamental stability and at the same time fulfill our every desire for they are inherently at odds with each other. So long as we fail to understand the root of our anxiety and fear they manifest as excessive behavior by which we are forced to exceed the limits of this finite world setting us against one another and the rest of creation as we struggle for survival.

3

          Humans are but one species of creature among many playing their part to maintain the whole that is the earth. Like all creatures, our survival and success are contingent on our ability to live within the limits of this finite world. Yet, unlike other creatures, only as humans must we commit ourselves to the understanding everything that surrounds us in nature, in the intricate web of life, is born of the same source and thus deeply corresponding in a union of perfect reciprocity, which ultimately is the root of love. And as we are supported and maintained within this web of intimate relations we are allowed the freedom to evolve by making conscious our own capacity for evolution, which above all entails our actively nurturing the force of loving reciprocity in a way no other creature can. We learn to complete ourselves, to evolve into our greater self by consciously reconnecting with the living world through the discovery of humility and love.

In this interconnected world, humility is the natural state of being for all creatures. With the exception of humans, life lacks the capacity to challenge this immutable fact. Should a creature diverge, it is momentary, for their heightened sensitivity to stress rooted in their survival instinct, quickly compels them to receptivity with which they correct their course prior to endangering themselves. Human desire, however, by means of the human-made order, is forever pushing against this limit as it divides us from the rest of the world, blunts our sensitivity and awareness, and consequently forces us to humility in a more poignant and profound way. It is thus we are made aware and willing to let go of our conditioned self when we discover our perception of self and life is incongruous with reality. And yet, as we learn to actively embrace humility we remove the fundamental barriers to our being receptive, thus opening within us the necessary space for love to reside.

From the selflessness of humility naturally arises unconditional love, the ultimate human means for maintaining balance in the world. It is the impetus and energy for the continued growth and perfection of our awareness as it directs our attention to what is most necessary and fulfilling in our continued existence on earth. It is a power of discernment whose exclusive focus is the good of all, the integrity of the whole. And it is a conscious commitment to the preservation of life born of a deep sense of its interdependence. In a circular and reinforcing way, our awareness becomes the very means through which we are returned to the source wherein lies the universal love that first set this process in motion, and the circle is complete. Within humans, love is thus a self-maintaining force that compels us to evolve toward greater stability.

Prior to love, in the selflessness of humility, we discover empty awareness and a subsequent stillness of being that grounds us in the present. Here that we find perfect balance, the ultimate point of reference by which we know where we stand and by which we are most able to detect imbalance in various forms of discomfort and disorder. Attentively, yet impartially, in the spaciousness of the empty mind, we are able to watch the play of the conditioned mind appearing and disappearing within the wider context of the whole. We see that maintaining our own sense of balance in the world is likewise a dynamic process of continual adjustment and adaptation, though which involves loss and death, results in growth and renewal.

To live in the present, to remain balanced and receptive, our mind must exist at the confluence of two fundamental yet seemingly independent and opposing movements – the process of receiving, most often synonymous with living, and the process of letting go, most often synonymous with dying. Together they constitute the cycle of the mind, the means and movement to its evolution. Letting go is not merely an emptying of the mind but a form of self-renewal as once again we become receptive and able to more accurately and acutely sense and perceive the world around us. And, our mind, in its inherent emptiness, is bare and fertile ground upon which seeds unknown are continually cast, and thus we must be unaware of what grows there, to nurture it or not.

Even though in part we are the ones to create the conditions of our mind, it is a largely subconscious and contextless world to which we are ill-adapted and to dwell there for long generates significant resistance resulting in anxiety and fear, the very things we are attempting to avoid.  Imperceptible and intangible, in this separate world within our mind our senses are useless, our actions ineffective, and our perception and understanding obscured. Thus isolated and ungrounded, we become lost within. Because this internal world of the conditioned mind exists solely within the mind itself, most often developing outside of our awareness, we unconsciously accept its validity without thought or reason. In order to adapt to it, to control it, we enter into it more deeply, that is, we use more elaborate means of thought to control our thought.  Yet, this is precisely how this separate world is built within and only leads to strengthening the very conditions we are ultimately helpless to control. And, in our helplessness, we are led to behave excessively, to seek balance through controlling and possessing the world outside us above and beyond what is necessary to live.

Rarely does it occur to us that the only way out, back to reality, is to simply cease to believe this separate world exists, at least to the degree we have constructed it. But the process of letting go of the conditioned mind is much easier said than done and often entails great discomfort. Our sense of self has become embedded within, and it seems it is the only self that exists, without which we are nothing. Holding on then seems a matter of survival, and letting go, like death. Yet, it is here we find the true means to control. Our ability to let go is rooted in our unique capacity to observe and question the content of our mind – our fear, desire, and adjoining assumptions – and subsequently see, in reality, we are not who we think we are, and the world is not what it seems. We instead use thought as a means to clarify our thought, and eventually to curtail it. Even more fleeting and ungraspable than the tangible world we physically inhabit, our thoughts about the world, no matter how accurate and able to guide us in the right direction, if grasped, remain an obstacle to our living in the present, to finding reality, which lies beyond thought.

When something is born into this world, to continue to exist in its present form, it must be maintained and protected in the face of change. The more we construct our separate self into a distinct and static entity, the more vulnerable we are to the effects of change or anything else that poses a challenge. The more we wholeheartedly invest in this process, the more we become attached and hold tightly to our investment, and the more difficult it is to let go. We thus become an ever-present source of resistance to the change inherent in the natural order, and within us, and are left forevermore maintaining – defending and fortifying – ourselves by way of great effort and subsequent stress. And, in our preoccupation with maintaining this self, we become conditioned to think and act in ways that unnecessarily limit us, and not only do we perceive life inaccurately but we no longer have the full breadth of choice once available to us so as to move freely and accurately with the varied and nuanced circumstances of life. In a very real way, we relinquish a large degree of control through loss of flexibility and good judgment, and often respond, failing to assess the best course of action, inappropriately.

Letting go is thus a process in which through the simplification of our self we harmonize more closely with the natural order.  For lack of resistance, we are made rooted in the present and return to a more fundamental way of being that is flexible and fluid, adaptable and sustainable, and relatively free of stress. No longer fearfully attached to life and self, we are prepared to accept loss, to meet death, to self-renew. As we learn to detect imbalance from within, we are awakened to the opportunity to balance ourselves, by looking closely and impartially at the content of our mind. We see how our thoughts color our perception and influence our behavior, and eventually are able to determine their value and validity. After acknowledging and accepting them for what they are, we let them go, returning ourselves to the stillness of the empty mind in union with the living present. Though time and again we become self-absorbed, unconsciously identifying and clinging to our thoughts, again and again, we awaken ourselves as we sense even the smallest amount of resistance they may generate and let go, thereby maintaining our wholeness and integrity.

Once having found our sense of balance, we see we must be careful not to become attached to the idea of balance as a static state, that we may never fall out of balance. So long as change is the root of life, and thus we are made desirous creatures, falling out of balance is a part of the natural order and to resist it only restricts our ability to let go, to find balance. We must accept imbalance, indeed, we require it, in order to find balance. As without death, there is no life, without imbalance, there is no balance, they create each other, and the absence of one means the absence of the other. The main idea is, through increased awareness, we notice when we fall out of balance and correct our course prior to our resistance manifesting in disruptive behavior. Otherwise, a chain reaction of negative responses is set in motion, rippling through the human-made order into the natural, eventually returning once again to us, reinforcing our behavior. The living present is thus not only the confluence of physical growth and senescence but the coming and going of thought. It is here that we come to understand not only the nature of life but that of the mind and of how the two are inextricably related.  As life cannot exist without death, we cannot truly live without letting go.

When in stillness we align our being with the whole of the living present we become conscious of our connection to an endlessly flowing source of energy. We see all energy is ultimately borrowed energy, the direct result of our union with this source. And our self is but one of the many ways this energy has been concentrated in the world and which must eventually be let go altogether in death, a stark reminder it is not ours. Despite our letting go we carry on, yet with greater ease. For without our asking we are nurtured by the universal love that exists in the wider world, and indeed, cannot see this until we have learned to let go. As we receive this love, we in turn are compelled to reciprocate, nurture, and love the world around us, to voluntarily let go and self-renew while we are still alive. We learn to maintain our stability and our integrity by relocating and grounding ourselves in the present where we are made aware of how we must play our part.

4

          Having spent most of our life treating the world as our possession, manipulating it to the fulfillment of our every desire, we find we have never truly known life and that our relationship with the world must be made anew. Once we have learned to let go and dwell in the stillness of the empty mind, our resistance turns to receptivity and we reawaken to a completely different way of seeing and relating to the world, a way of experiencing which is fundamental to us as creatures but has been taken for granted, and thus overlooked and unmaintained.

As creatures, we have evolved to live within the whole of our experience, in the context of nature. It is a total sensory experience that by necessity grounds us in the present, and through which we come to know where we are not only by name but through feeling. This way of sensing and perceiving is a heightened state of awareness, a strength of attention that enables us to observe and appreciate the most basic sensation and phenomena and of how these phenomena come together to form a whole of which, through our sensation, we directly feel we are an integral part. When we feel and perceive the world in this way it is as if it is born anew – known and at the same time unknown, both ordinary and extraordinary. And the same can be said for ourselves, the very creature which feels and perceives, who is also as if born anew. Though it may seem all phenomena in life are fit for an explanation, our direct sensing of them is a wholly profound and mysterious act by which we detect, and conclude, that life is far deeper than we can ever fathom and bigger than we can grasp.

The degree we experience the world in this way is the degree we feel alive. For to be alive is to sense and feel the world around and within us, and if in some way our awareness and sensitivity are diminished, so too is our aliveness. We are alive to the degree we are present, in which we know and feel at this very moment we exist. As we repeatedly experience life in this way our perspective gradually and permanently changes and we no longer have any doubt as to the nature of life and of the self and how the two must meet. We see that to live is less a matter of having, of possessing, and holding on, but of being, in a state of emptiness and openness – selflessness. When we let go and open ourselves to receive the world in this way we are at once liberated from the confines of the conditioned mind and deeply rooted, as our attention is turned away from our desire and redirected to the immediate experience of being alive.

The absence of such fundamental and formative experience has always been the missing link to our wholeness and the cause of endless unrest. Only in this way do we come to know and feel we are an inseparable part of the whole that is the earth. As this experience somehow expands our little being beyond imagination we sense with a depth of feeling otherwise unknown that simply being a part of something as significant as life is fulfillment enough. Here we find the root of our contentment, to know within this world we belong, that everything is in its place playing its part, and thus the world is working as it must. Its strength is our strength, its weakness is our weakness. To look upon the living earth in this way is to perceive the most perfect harmony and to see for ourselves this is as it should be, this is how it is without our intervention, and in humility, we peacefully find our place within.

Living in the present, in the context of nature, is a path to contentment founded on simplicity. In simplicity, we come to rely on quality instead of quantity. Instead of strength of possession, we invest in strength of attention.  And it is the quality of attention we give to our daily life that largely determines the degree of satisfaction we derive from it. Should we live wholly in the present, giving it our full attention, we find a little goes a long way and we desire to have but enough and no more. More than enough can then easily feel like too much should it somehow interfere with the quality of our attention. Not only do we find we need far fewer resources to sustain our existence, thus freeing ourselves from the burden of a complex, high-maintenance, and energy-intensive way of living, but we simultaneously allow for the rest of life to flourish to the benefit of all, unburdened by our humble existence. The energy thus conserved is then made available for the ongoing maintenance of daily self-renewal with which we remain in contact with the source. In the absence of direct contact, outside of the context of nature, we fail to find the substances and stimuli with which we are most fulfilled, and instead of freedom, simplicity is felt more like deprivation.

The ordinary everyday activity of fulfilling our essential needs must be a significant source of contentment in our life at least in part by our being the ones to fulfill them directly from the source. In this way, as we routinely and intimately engage with the world, we discover the true value of a thing, and thus of how much is enough. Not only do we see life’s miracle of abundance and renewal but likewise see, at any given time and place, we are living within a finite world where there are very real, tangible, and ever-present limits in its ability to renew, to provide us with what we need, and thus of how we choose to live. Furthermore, we see our excessive desire is responsible not only for our sense of dissatisfaction as it draws us away from the immediate experience of being alive, but a significant source of resistance in the world that threatens our remaining balanced within these limits. We instead heighten our enjoyment and appreciation of life by intentionally limiting ourselves, which not only helps to preserve life but allows us to experience it, at its most elemental, more fully. In order to find satisfaction in life, we must settle down and go deeper into it, give ourselves to it completely by continuously letting go of our desire, and eventually freeing ourselves as refugees of dissatisfaction who are forever on the move in search of fulfillment, and who may find it but temporarily.

Living at the source we are provided the essential understanding that is the inspiration for all: The fundamental means with which we make a life are first and foremost a creation of nature not of man, and thus the root of our wealth is undoubtedly the natural world, without which we truly are nothing. To the land, and to our ability to use it well, we have no choice but to place our full faith, as all humans have acknowledged in one way or another since the beginning of humankind. It is this understanding of our complete dependence that underlies our reverence for nature and which gives us no ground to elevate ourselves above the rest of the world but instead brings us back down to earth. Humility once again becomes the essence of our life, never too far away to remind us of our situation. And yet, the beauty and wonder in life are likewise close at hand, assuring us in humility there is nothing to fear, on the contrary, humility is the very solution to our fear as it brings us closer to life. As we learn to consciously embrace humility the simple act of living in the present, at the source, becomes not only an integral part of the path to contentment but an ultimate act of love and veneration for life.

5

          The basis of life is energy, and living is about how to use it well. Though through the process of renewal, the amount of energy available in the world is ultimately endless, because it is a process, at any given time and place it is finite. Thus, using it well means using it efficiently. Merely from an energetic standpoint, in this interconnected world, living cooperatively is more efficient than living competitively, living simply is more efficient than living complexly, living selflessly is more efficient than living selfishly, living desirelessly is more efficient than living desirously, and living lovingly is more efficient than living fearfully. It is thus, our behavior is as much a determinant of our survival as the natural processes on which we wholly depend, and it is the path of least resistance that is most conducive to this end for the greater balance it affords us.

The desensitizing of our self through our attachment to, and identification with the stream of conditioned thought that preoccupies our mind and separates us from living reality is perhaps the greatest threat not only to ourselves but to the whole of life. It is in this way our experience of life instead of deepened, is made shallow, and consequently, such simple experiences which constitute most of our life and form the most essential parts of our being, do not hold our attention or receive our appreciation and instead are taken for granted. The result of this tragically selfish condition so intrinsic to humans, of which none are immune, is the living world cannot penetrate and awaken us to the living reality that is life, and are compelled to vainly look elsewhere for fulfillment and meaning separating us further from living reality until we are completely lost. Not only impartiality but to intimacy is our understanding of life tightly linked, and thus we fail to understand what we are separate from and prone to destroy it, not necessarily with intent, but lack of experience.

The origin of our existential anxiety and fear, and thus of our excessive desire, is our deep-seated drive for survival, the evolutionary conditioning which underlies the human-made order and all subsequent conditioning therein. We behave excessively not because we lack the basic necessities for living, or that we are presently in danger, but because this drive has gone unchecked and been severely overplayed. Once the basic needs for our physical survival are met this drive, as deep-seated as it is, does not simply go away but is subconsciously transformed into the drive for the survival of our identity, largely based on two interconnected ideas of what it means to live, and form the basis of the human-made order as we now know it.  One is the deeply materialistic perspective that to be is to have, and it is the human-made order and its norms that set this standard. The other is, that once we have, what we have – our material possessions, identity, and ideas – must be maintained and protected. Anything which poses a challenge to these things is felt as a threat to our physical existence and our reaction, justifiably or not, is resistance. So long as our sense of survival entails our possessing and holding on, this changing world will see to it, in more than one way, in anxiety and fear, we spend our lives struggling for survival even when our physical existence is easily assured.

In order to see the world clearly, we must be willing and able to allow emptiness to be the more common state of our mind. And yet, we fear emptiness, for emptiness is akin to nothingness in that they both challenge the idea that to have is to be.

The purpose of the human-made order, our own specific manifestation of the natural order, is to support our harmonious integration into the natural world particular to the time and place we live by helping us choose, and nurture, those parts of our diverse nature most conducive to our wellbeing.  It is an order born not of selfishness but of shared necessity. And it is only in selflessness that we can live cooperatively for any real stretch of time, for our self-interest otherwise leads us to compete. Yet, it is certainly in our interest that our basic needs be met, indefinitely, and through our cooperation this is far more likely to happen. Like all creatures, we are meant to bring order to this world, to use the gifts of creation to make it our home, so that we may play our part. And to do this, one of the most important things we must understand is how much of this order is enough and when it is too much before it is too late. It is this understanding that is the highest order and culmination of all our effort. So long as the human-made order attempts to wholly take over the natural order the balance of the world is severely disrupted and the human-made order then becomes the greatest source of resistance to the organizing force of evolution itself.  In our genuine need to counter our anxiety and fear, to feel secure in this world and find contentment, we are right to think we must have some control, yet the question of how looms large.

There must be a way of living no matter who we are or what we have we may find contentment, other than desiring, possessing, and holding on, for this way of living is the greatest of misunderstandings and ultimately unfit for this end. They are instead the very obstacles to our finding contentment in the world as they forever pull us away from the source. It is fundamental we learn emptiness is not empty, to be without possessing is not to be without possession, to live with humility is not to be without self, for then we know it is safe and fulfilling to let go and live simply. As our perspective of life naturally broadened we eventually come to see there is no fundamental separation between us and the world except that maintained through the conditioning of our mind. And though we now see our separate self as comparatively insignificant, we also see our relation to the world is not, and that therein lies our greater self.

Wherever it is we may reside what forever remains most beneficial to our well-being is our intelligent, sympathetic, and full participation in the natural processes of life, the very processes that make us who we are and exemplify on the grandest scale the most fundamental aspects of living – growth and change, reciprocity and balance, limits, loss, death, and renewal. For us to understand, accept, and appreciate life as it is – to play our part – we must be committed to a way of being that is grounded in a receptive simplicity. In the end, humility comes to us all, for we all must face death. Yet, we die willingly and peacefully, having learned to truly know and love the world, having sown the seeds by which it may continue to flourish, and for one last time we let go and make room for the next generation by which we continue to live.