There are two ways to attune your attitude toward the natural environment. You can generally view it as an outside “thing” to be tamed, shaped, mastered and utilized for resources. Or you can look at the whole as being an ecosystem, which you are a part of, not an outside agent to. The position you choose will influence the way you behave toward everything else on this island in the galaxy. If nature is outside, you are in competition with it, and you must conquer it. If you see yourself as a part of nature, you become motivated to find your place in it. Your efforts will be spent in achieving balance and harmony.
Taking one or the other position has a ripple effect on many areas of your life. It’s no secret that I want to be IN nature, even though I was raised to be OUTSIDE of it. There’s only so much planet, so much air, space, food, and fossil fuels. So I drive the smallest car I could buy for a low price that needs few repairs and gets high mileage. I want to put less exhaust into the air. We also bought close to my work, a recent conscious decision since we previously lived an hour away from our jobs. I now drive for about two to three weeks on a tank of gas. And we live in a small house that uses less electricity and water. And the plants and trees are mostly native species that we don’t have to do anything to. We mow the grass twice a year.
I could go on all day about the minutia, all the little things you can do to be more inside than outside of nature, but there’s also a “woo-woo” side that’s more interesting to consider. I’ve been thinking about it because of some great comments Margie (http://gogreygirl.wordpress.com/) made in reaction to the deer pictures from two posts back. Many scientists and naturalists advise people to not interact with “wild animals” because they become habituated to people, and that’s bad for them and for us – they say.
I don’t think the issue is as cut and dried as that. Native Americans lived, hunted and interacted intimately with wild animals at every possible opportunity for more than 10,000 years. They didn’t have all our cool technology with which to study animals, and they still managed it. In those cultures, and in tribal and older cultures elsewhere, people are taught from a philosophic position of being inside nature. That is the difference. In our culture, where humans are on the outside, those dangerous wild animals are something we have to watch out for. If they get too used to us, they’ll attack to get our food, kill our kids and pets, and mess with our cars! We fail to understand that living in disharmony with wild animals is an indication that our way of living is wrong.
I thought about the Garden of Eden story, a familiar teaching story in my tradition. The first humans live in harmony with the animals, until they eat something they were forbidden to – the fruit of the tree giving them the knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge, kids, not wisdom. Just like technology. Knowing how to do things. Not understanding when to, or if you ought to be doing them. After they ate of the tree, Adam and Eve attempted (literally) to cover their asses, but it didn’t work. The cover-up is always worse than the crime. Among other things it’s a cautionary tale about one of our most dangerous characteristics. We know everything, and are free to do the wrong thing, on purpose.
Animals are not in any sort of intentional competition with us. That’s a misunderstanding of their motives. They’re only trying to get enough to eat and very basic shelter, just as homeless humans will do when they are forced to live outside. It’s fairly easy to trigger an animal (or person) to attack you. The challenge is in learning how to project to other beings, and other species, that you are attuned to them and their needs, and that you respect their right to be alive. I have seen it done, and I want to learn more about how to do it. The discipline I’m working on right now is being still. When I am still, people and the other animals feel free to come closer.