Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nature --2

As I sit at my laptop writing this I am completely surrounded by human artifacts: the walls of the house, furniture, appliances, lights, fans, books, electronic devices. The only hint I have of the transhuman world is a glimpse out of the window, a few fronds of palm waving in the breeze, a branch of sea grape. In the big scheme of things, that glimpse of nature may be more important than all the accumulated artificial stuff that makes my life so comfortable.

I'm anxious to get out there, to start poking around. To pull love vine. To watch the hummingbirds and geckoes. To follow the long shore glide of the osprey. To catch the pipefish chasing its dinner. If one pays attention, there is one overriding lesson: Everything is connected.

Every part of me -- my bones, blood vessels, nerves, fingers and toes, eyes, nose, brain, even my instincts to laugh and cry, to be self-aware, to sympathize with others -- is anticipated in nature. We may think we are a special creation -- a whole day of creation given over just to us -- but we are on a continuum of infinitesimal change. I have more in common with the gecko than with the laptop I am writing on.

Admitting that we are part of nature, we may think that we are at the top of the continuum, but even that is a conceit. Where is the top of the surface of a sphere? Every part depends on every other. It may be possible to create a technotopia, some sort of totally artificial, non-organic, science-fiction world, but to put humans in such an environment would be like putting cut flowers in a vase -- they would be sure to wilt.

What do we learn from nature? First of all, connectedness.

And with connectedness, responsibility. Responsibility for participating artfully in the continuing creation.

What else?

That the universe is vast and deep beyond human understanding.

That a human life is a blip in cosmic time.

These are worthwhile lessons, life-transforming lessons, soul-making lessons. Worth those long hours, outside, paying attention.

Tell me, what else should I have done?