Why We Think Of Our Earth As An Object Rather Than A Being
And how that is beginning to change as we begin to know ourselves
We tend to think of earth as something to use. The hierarchical systems which put a bearded, male deity at the top, and all other beings below is one primary reason. Monotheistic religions introduced this idea.
Separate city states, developing hand in hand with agriculture, supported this simple power structure which allowed many empires to rise, and fall.
It made sense, if you wanted people to willingly cooperate to bring in resources, for those people to look toward protectors, defenders, kings, priests, and even armies.
Now the world has arrived at a technological place where most of us are not farmers. We are not even outdoor workers. Industrialization created a world where the corporate kings’ rule at the top. Many of us feel we have no choice but to be the clients and supporters of Amazon, Facebook, Exxon Mobil, Big Agriculture, and Big pharma. We still have our regular ‘kings’, presidents, popes, dictators and more. Instead of many scattered tribes, most of us have aligned with particular nations. Our need to belong to these entities helps satisfy our sense of security.
But science has more recently found that all humans are part of systems. These systems are woven together, completely inter-dependent. We learned we share our DNA, even with lettuce, and we depend utterly on those organisms that make air, weather, water, and more.
Facts form the basis for understanding our evolution, our history as conquering beings, our ability to adopt to different locations, and completely distinguishable cultures. Now, we must learn to share these things.
Globalization, has allowed us to also see wherein inequality is, who is considered entitled, and who is not. We find unity and inter-dependency in being global citizens, but we also find that a few elites are given far more wealth and privilege than most people.
To discover, or to rediscover, that we are part and parcel of the Earth is to be open to the idea that Earth was not created for mankind. It is to understand that earth, often depicted as Mother Nature, or Gaia, existed long before us, and will likely endure long beyond us.
For many people this requires an enormous shift in perception of all they have ever known. If there is no great chain of being, then, is there a God? Are there angels to protect us? Demons to which we can assign blame? Is there even an afterlife? Will I ever see loved ones I have lost?
These questions are so big that an immediate sense of denial of such possibilities kicks in. Our old stories are comforting.
Human beings have considerable difficulty in accepting something they see as unpleasant.
But don’t we see climate change, storms, disasters, floods, fires, famine and plague –or even just death by pollution — as unpleasant? Yes, we do, but even so, to accept we are responsible for our fate is a tall order. But this is what we are called to do now, to embrace the whole creation in our belonging.
Being able to influence our own lives requires a human maturity most people are just not yet comfortable enough to adapt. Note, that one does not have to disbelief in a higher power for this maturity to kick in. But most of us were raised believing that God made the earth for our use, not for our belonging; especially if we are not seen as special, and “worthy.”
Add thousands of years of patriarchy, sexism, racism and most of all our belief that animals and plants are just not as important as we are, and you have a solid formula for people to disrespect the organism of nature, herself, and the systems that only nature can provide; habitable planets, for example.
We ignore the sacredness of the Earth at our own peril. And, those people who cling to the idea of a strong world leader who gets his way through sheer aggression and even violence, will continue to need to believe we need top down structures of power and domination.
However, as science and technology have shown that sheer physical ‘strength’ is not necessary for warfare, leadership, working structures and order, we are changing. Technology, STEM, and our ability to share and adapt has more value today, and we still need art and music, as well as food and drink.
People are learning that having a voice, having representation, for all matters. Authoritarian systems have their attractions. People don’t have to try to solve everything individually. They can look toward a proven authority for answers. They can follow, which is easier than leading.
Centuries of internalized self-doubt, however, can be reversed by observing how nature uses networks, shared powers, non-bias, and factual evidence to create thriving and abundance.
It is only those organisms that do not foul their own nest that go on to create millions of years of habitation on a shared planet.