Those of us who grew up in Western societies have a lot to be thankful for. Plato, Socrates, Aristotle are just a small part of it. We could also have some regrets about things that have limited us. Plato, Socrates and Aristotle are just a small part of it. For better or ill, we have become part of a conceptual map of the Universe that persists in creating dualities about just about everything. Good and Evil, Body and Soul, Mind and Body, Humans and Nature. The list goes on and on.
When we stop to think about this, we know that our world does not easily divide along those lines. Yet, it is the way we have been taught to see the world and we persist in doing so.
Each of these has proven to be problematic throughout history. The most pernicious of these in our current world is the division into Man and Nature, Human-kind and everything else. This has then predisposed us - in our ever-present myopic way to see ultimate value in ourselves and to see everything else as either our play-things or our receptacle for what we don't want, hazardous wastes, excess carbon from the production of energy, our disposable plastic trash. As a species, we often see other species as disposable.
A profound Deity looking down upon us might wonder how we got to this point. In my own small way, so do I. Beyond that, I wonder why we persist in hanging onto a world-view that has rarely served us as we compartmentalize the human mind into countless categories of Us and Them. This latest categorization of Us and Them threatens to do us in because in reality there is no Us and Them; there is just All of Us - animals, fish, insects, plants, trees, wind blowing through the trees and the animal that evolved into Human Sapiens.
When we put toxic substances in our drinking water or in our breathing air, we are not just killing other species, we our killing ourselves. We are slowly making our lives on this planet unbearable and our Earthly home uninhabitable. We are rending the fabric of Nature.
To get beyond this requires us taking a step back in time to when we saw the world as a unity and lived in it fully along with all of the rest of Nature and the rest of life on this planet. We can spend time reading about indigenous people and oral cultures at a time when there was a common language across Nature where all of the different parts of Nature listened and interacted daily with each other.
We have fallen prey to the illusion that just because Western Man came later than indigenous peoples that he is smarter, knows more. We have fallen prey to the illusion that Human-kind knows more about survival than species that have been thriving on this planet for millions and millions of years. The new field of Biomimicry affords us the opportunity to learn from many of these success stories in Nature. However, this learning should not turn into yet one more example of us using Nature for our own selfish purposes. It should become an endeavor of respectful and caring listening.
It is time that we acknowledge that somewhere along the way, we have gotten off track. This is not to say that we have not learned from Plato, Socrates and Aristotle. It is to say that all along we should have been learning from and respecting other voices as well. Voices of other humans who have chosen a different path from Western Man and voices abundant in Nature. It may be the most momentous step in the cultural evolution of a large segment of Human-kind but somehow we must move beyond the dualities that have plagued us over time to a more encompassing view in which the human-animal again takes its place as a member and good citizen of life on Earth. If only, there were some species in Nature that could teach us how to do this.