At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of seasons. ~Carl G. Jung
The rapid development of science and technology over the past few hundred years has provided western society many gifts. A few come to mind quickly: sanitation systems which curtail the spread of disease, communication technologies that allow us to connect instantaneously, and, via the internet, convenient access (for all?) to an abundance of information about the world in which we live.
This rise of modern technology and science also casts a dark shadow, however. Accompanying our technological prowess is a worldview which, to paraphrase geologian (yes, geologian!) Thomas Berry, insists that,
the world is a collection of isolated objects, rather than a community of interdependent subjects.
While this cognitive, emotional, and physical separation was absolutely necessary for the development of modern, ‘objective’, science, it carries with it many negative consequences—both for the human soul and for our planetary home.
First, quite plainly, experiencing the world as a collection of objects is depressing. While our ancestors lived in an enchanted world endowed with mystery, many moderns live in an atomized world, devoid of any coherent meaning. Rather than feeling like a part of a wider world, many of us moderns are rootless, disconnected—from our deeper selves, from each other, and from the planet. As if these three things were, in fact, separate!
Second, this experience of disconnection allows us to destroy our planet without remorse. By conceptualizing humanity as separate from the natural world, we are able to capitalize on its resources and devastate it—without feeling its pain. Or perhaps the pain is there, festering in the unconscious, causing many of us to lead lives of quiet desperation.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that we do away with science and technology and the many advantages it affords. Rather, I believe we need to achieve a balance: between our analytical minds and our instinctual selves, between the individual and wider society, between humanity and our more-than-human brothers and sisters. As it stands the pendulum has swung much too far in one direction.
We western people would do well to learn from our indigenous brothers and sisters, many of whom still understand that,
our planet is sacred. It is to be savoured and protected.