beyond the natural mind – a 21 day manifesto
“Today I will start to notice my surroundings & the natural world of which I am knowingly or unknowingly dependent on”
We’ve done pretty well as a species, wouldn’t you say? So whether a supernatural being created the world or we evolved from apes it doesn’t matter.
Neither god, nor the apes invented the internet, the car, gas central heating, flushing toilets, antibiotics, the jet engine, the television, the knife and fork, agriculture… That person was Man – homo sapiens, the most intelligent species ever to walk the Earth.
Through the constant desire to explore, Man has systematically invented some of the most amazing things we take for granted.
From the humble brick to build our shelters, to satellite navigation to help planes, ships and cars navigate to their destination without fear of getting lost, Man the invincible has been there creating new ideas and new technology to better his world.
I say “his world” because that is the only world that exists to Man, and why wouldn’t it? A lion only sees what it needs to survive, that is the limit of its world; an ant only sees what it needs, to ensure the survival of the colony; a bird only eats what it needs in order to ensure its own survival, and the survival of its offspring.
Wait a minute. something’s not right here, is it? Here I am comparing Man with all manners of creatures but the comparison doesn’t make sense; how can I compare Man the Inventor with creatures whose operating model is pre-programmed survival? The simple answer is, I can’t. Man is alone, sitting on his throne, as self appointed King of the World.
So what’s makes Man different?
Man is no longer bound as a slave to pre-programmed survival. Through his big brain, Man has been able to cast off his primitive shackles, and reach for the stars. Remember that even if god did create the world, everything in it, and last but not least, Man, he didn’t create the man who could use his brain creatively as he does now.
He didn’t create a human being in his image who had the power to create atomic weapons or build roads, drill for oil, or make fast food, for that is the domain of modern Man. No other creature on Earth has created what we have. Why? Well, I’m not completely sure! But it seems we are well adapted to make and use tools, and have developed a brain capable of creative problem solving; but as I’m no scientist I’ll leave my guesswork there.
Suffice to say, the industrial revolution (which began in britain in the late 18th century) was the turning point for human development.
Industrialisation freed Man from mundane tasks; automating processes, and allowing increasingly advanced specialization.
Since the first domestication of plants that signalled the birth of agriculture and the domestication of livestock for food, and animals to use for transport, and pull farm machinery, Man has been freeing himself from his old hunter gatherer ways to develop his own intellect; to create art and music, to create wealth for himself, to understand the world, to never have to worry about food shortages ever again, to overcome nature and put himself firmly in control of all that surrounds him.
I’m not dependent on anything. Am I?
Most of us have been given some education about “the natural world,” but this is seen as something external to us, something we observe, that we
watch tv programs about, that we visit whilst on holiday, but we don’t see it as something we have a deep relationship with.
Let’s start with the basics shall we?
Me: “Where does your food come from?” You: “I earn money and I buy my food.”
Me: “Where does your clothing come from?” You: “I earn money and I buy my clothes.”
Me: “Where do the materials to build houses come from?” You: “I earn money to pay my rent that’s all I know.”
Me: “Where does the heat come from to cook your food, heat the water, and heat/cool your house?”
You: “I earn money and pay my bills.”
Four basic but essential needs. Paid for by money, created by a mystery force! And if you live in a poor country you are probably closer to the mystery force than those of us living a very nice lifestyle in “The West”.
So what is this mystery force I speak of? Well, the mystery force is all around us. Soil, trees, rocks, oceans, rivers, animals, insects, are all part of it. Got it yet? Of course you have! It’s planet Earth, also known as “home.”
But what does this have to do with you? Well, if you look around your other home you will start to understand.
I am sitting in a small kitchen right now. Around me are the following items (feel free to skip through this list if you start getting bored.)
Two chairs, a table, a radiator, two boxes of cereal, a drawer full of knives and forks, a cupboard full of cups, a cupboard full of plates, bowls, glasses, a dishwasher, a sink with hot and cold taps, a toaster, a kettle, drying cloths, washing cloths, a pineapple, two bananas, a bag of oranges, a microwave, a fridge freezer (full of various purchased items), an electric cooker, a microwave, cooking utensils, cleaning products, aluminium foil, a wall clock, pictures on the wall, a bin (full of food that is out of date / plastic packaging / anything not required), a cupboard full of reusable plastic bags…
Phew! That’s some list. And I haven’t even been through all the cupboards, and certainly not through the house. Do you want me to, or would you prefer to take your own inventory in your own time?
That list of products are not external to me, they are component parts of the Earth, put together by other humans to sell, to make money, to make my life “easier”. But how many of the Earth’s resources had to be used to make even one item on that list? Do you even care?
That depends on how much money you have! You see, the more money you have the further you will be from the source.
If you have nothing, you will be closely connected to the source. Your heating / cooking fuel may come from firewood, but there again where does the ignition source come from? A lighter? Matches? All of which had to be made using materials from the Earth.
If you have plenty of money you will happily pay for food to be imported, then processed and prepared for you so that you can put it in the microwave for five minutes. If you have very little, you will have to plant seed (if you have any) hope you have enough water to grow your crops (where does the water come from?) the right tools to manage your crops (where do these come from?) and finally tools to harvest your crops (assuming that you have land you can work, shelter, clothing, and enough food and water to survive until your crops are ready to harvest).
So you see, the closer you get to the source, the more connected you are, and the more complex it becomes to survive on your own. Life on Earth is suddenly not as appealing as it seemed a moment ago.
No more arts, flying, creating, education, cars, holidays, exotic foods, wine, entertainment, engineering, science, discussion, philosophising, mobile phones, laptop computers. Instead we are left with work to allow our continued survival, much the same as the animals whom we believe we have nothing in common with, because, you see, we were created by god etc…
The life we have on this planet has been made possible by 10,000 years of a surplus of food made possible by agriculture, of the subsequent specialisation of Man, of us all playing a small part in a big wheel.
Yes we have been inventive, but when we look closely, everything is made possible by “the natural world,” (you know, the one we are external to, that we have conquered).
So before we use up every available resource on this planet, maybe we should have a long hard look at our houses, our food, our clothes, our bills, and realise that although “money” paid for them, the Earth and its inhabitants provided them at a cost far greater than the money you gave to get them.
One day we may find the Earth realises that in order to protect itself, something’s got to give. And that something, ladies and gentleman, will be us – homo sapiens, self-proclaimed King of the World.
by alan macmillan orr