We seem to be a society consumed with fear. We tend to be more fearful of those things that “might happen” than we are of the real threats that are part of our day to day lives.
I’ve been giving this a lot of thought in the past few months. Wondering why the never-ending messages of fear coming from Donald Trump and the Conservative GOP candidates have any traction at all in our modern culture. Why we are trapped in a never-ending war against “terrorists”. It doesn’t make sense. Are we “that” powerless that we have to allow our lives to be driven by fear?
Other than the weather, or worrying about a sick cow, I don’t remember my grandparents ever embracing the kind of fear that is pandemic in our human culture today. My grandfather would have laughed at the fear mongering of Trump and the GOP conservatives. He would have spit out his chewing tobacco, climbed back on his tractor, and reminded anyone listening “how hard it is to fix stupid”.
As I thought about the difference between my grandfather’s generation and mine, it struck me that there were indeed some deep differences. For example, it was rare to see my grandfather get in his old truck and drive to town for anything…..including food. I know, because I was always trying to ride with him so I could steer the truck on the back roads that led into the small village near his farm. As I got a bit older, he would throw a pillow on the seat and let me drive. He was definitely my favorite grandfather!
His trips to town were infrequent because he and my grandmother lived on the crops they grew on their farm, and the thirty or forty cows they milked every morning and night. There are few experiences in life better than the smell and sounds of a cow barn at dawn. I miss those times.
We’ve Lost Our Connection With The Natural World
Our lives are different today. We are so pathologically focused on being independent we’ve all but forgotten our dependence on nature, the weather, and the natural world around us. We’ve lost connection with our roots in nature! We’ve lost the ability to “see” how intimately connected we actually are with the natural world.
We’ve unconsciously bought into our primitive ego’s illusion of separateness and lost touch with the reality that ecology is not about the planet, other life forms, our atmosphere, our oceans, or our forests. Ecology is our own personal relationship, and the intimate connection each of us has with nature. Ecology is the science of connectedness. A connectedness to the natural world that stretches back hundreds of thousands of years.
I got to wondering if that fact might be the root source of the fear driving our culture today? For example, our lives have become increasingly artificial; more and more cut off from the natural world.
- We’ve lost touch with a quality of life that respects the organic world.
- We live in a world that worships “progress”.
- We live in a world that does not do well with delayed gratification.
- We have lost the ability to think in agricultural time frames.
- We want everything now!
- We live in a world that supports a high-yield monoculture agriculture, and as a result, we don’t know where our food is grown. We don’t know how it’s grown. We don’t know how to protect the soil with composting and organic recycling.
In the 21st Century modern world most of us are almost completely ecologically illiterate. We no longer understand the biological foundations of our own survival!
I have to believe our disconnection with the natural world is the primary reason we are in the midst of a dangerous and rapidly growing environmental crisis. And it may explain the pandemic fear, anxiety, and sense of powerlessness so many are experiencing.
The Basic Problem: We Are Totally Dependent On Others For Our Survival
Our vulnerability to fear and anxiety might be coming from the unconscious reality that we have become totally dependent on others for our survival! The more I sat with that reality, the more I realized it’s no wonder we might have an unconscious pandemic sense of anxiety and fear. We know in our hearts that our very survival is totally dependent on others. If those “others” stopped producing or sending us our food, delivering our fuel, or providing our electricity, we would die very quickly. Think about it. We are totally dependent on “others” for our very survival! If they stop producing our food, our survival would be measured in days. How could we not be unconsciously fearful and anxious? Fearful of “might happen” events that could potentially impact our survival.
As I thought about it, I realized we don’t think in agricultural terms any longer. We are no longer connected in any meaningful way with the natural world. We are distracted by the next text as if our life depended on it, but we ignore the fact that we have no idea how to even provide food for ourselves. We have no way to provide ourselves with our next meal unless it comes from a store or the fast food isle of a store.
It’s not just the busy pace of our modern lives causing us stress. I am beginning to think it might be caused more by the fact that we have lost the fundamental abilities and skills needed to survive! No wonder we are fearful, vulnerable, helpless, anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed. Our dependence on others to provide our food, and the other resources required for our survival, is a reality that would create fear and anxiety in any rational person if they took a moment to consciously think about it.
All of us want to live a peaceful life; a life filled with a sense of well-being and happiness. But our total dependency on others and our overwhelming ecological ignorance of the natural world might be the more fundamental reasons responsible for the deep levels of fear, anxiety and powerlessness that seems pandemic in our country today.
The “modern” Western world has all but lost its connection with the natural world; the natural world that has been providing for humanity for thousands of years. We worry about the threats posed by terrorists, but our true sense of powerlessness may be embedded in our lack of knowledge about basic survival skills; the ability and knowledge needed to grow our own food.
The natural world has become a stranger to us. An “it”, or “other”. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s no wonder we’ve created a global ecological crisis. It’s no wonder we fail to honor the natural word. How could we not be unconsciously vulnerable, helpless and fearful? How could we not be unconsciously suffering from fear, depression, and anxiety caused by generations of indifference toward the natural world?
As I thought about my own life, I was thankful for the years spent visiting my grandparents farm, the countless hours I spent camping weekends with the boy scouts, and the countless hours spent building forts in the woods behind my house. Forts the protected us from the apple wars with the kids on the other side of the gully. I got to walk a mile to school and back every day on forest paths and railroad tracks. Every summer I tended the gardens I’d planted in my back yard. I can’t imagine who I would be today without those memories and those childhood connections with the natural world. I doubt I would be tending six raised bed vegetable gardens, or watering four apple trees and a pear tree in our small grass-free backyard today.
The conclusions I’ve drawn from thinking about my own life, and the pandemic levels of fear present in our society today, has helped me understand how the illusion of separateness, created by our childhood primitive ego and it’s never-ending need to protect our self-identity, has created a dangerous “us vs. them” way of seeing the world.
I now see more clearly the folly of thinking that we can somehow dominate and tame the natural world. We are nature! We are evolution in action both individually and culturally. How could we ever think we could dominate or tame the evolutionary impulse to “become” incarnate in the natural world and all of creation? Talk about human narcissism! The only viable path available to us is one of connection and deeper knowledge of how to live in a right relationship with the natural world.
The natural world of Gaia is not an “it”. The Universe is not an “it”. Both are conscious, living, evolving entities. Our human relationship with Gaia and our Universe needs to embrace the awe and sacredness that only our soul is capable of understanding. A deeper, sacred “thou” relationship. Until we re-connect with these simple realities, we will lack the wisdom and will to create a truly sustainable human culture on our planet.
Everything in our universe is a fully integrated, totally connected, oneness. And that includes you and me.
Every stage of evolution from the big bang to this very moment had to happen for us to be here.
Every part of the universe; you, me, and the smallest living bacteria on our planet, is nested inside and dependent on the larger whole called our planet. And the larger whole, the planet we are part of, is dependent on you and me, and all the smaller parts that make up our planet. Stated differently, we mutually benefit from being part of the larger whole, and the larger whole mutually benefits from us.
Evolution is based on cooperation and the mutual benefit of all. When we assume to be separate from the natural world, we lose sight of this deeper wisdom. We distance ourselves from the natural world and assume that we don’t have to contribute back to the natural world. What folly!
If we want to deal with our fear and anxieties, perhaps we need to:
- deal with our ecological ignorance and re-learn how to grow our own food;
- go back to our roots in the natural world and create backyard and local community gardens;
- consider rebuilding the small family farms that have been abandoned;
- move back to rural villages and small towns and their inter-dependent communities where people tend to depend on one another;
- intentionally search for a sense of “home” in the natural world. Spend more time walking dirt paths. Taking the time every day to connect with the Earth and rekindle our connection with, and a love for the natural world…..the source of mental and physical health, nurturing, and security that we’ve lost in the modern world; and
- re-learn the skills needed to live in a right relationship with the natural world.
Perhaps if we could do those things, and get back to growing and harvesting, at least, some of our own food, it could help us be less fearful. Less anxious. Less vulnerable. Maybe even happier. Perhaps those changes could become a new definition of “progress” and “success” for our lives.