“We are the children of the Earth and not separate from the soil, the forests, the rivers, and the sky. We share the same destiny.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Much of Western society seems to have adopted the view that human beings are somehow separate from nature. This is a false belief. In fact all of the many features that we consider making us distinct – language, culture, social organization – also fall under the vast umbrella of “nature”. Many people, who feel an overwhelming concern for the planet and the affect our societies have had on her, also seem to think that we are a blight on the earth, as though, given the amount of devastation we have caused, she would get along better without the existence of human beings. I do not believe this to be true, either. Nature needs us as a part of the whole (which is what makes us inter-dependent). But she needs us to be a conscientious, compassionate part.
Compassion. Our view of this term may be the problem. Although compassion is defined (according to the Oxford Dictionary) as “the sympathetic pity and concern for the suffering and misfortunes of others”, and that is how most of us understand it, the word literally means to “suffer together”. When we cause damage to the systems of our planet, it is not only nature that suffers. We are not “other” than nature. We, as an integral part of nature, suffer along with her.
So then, what is our role? What is our responsibility? If we adopt a perspective that considers ourselves to be an element of nature, and we see our own destiny as one with that of nature, perhaps we can reach a point where we do not need to consider suffering together. Perhaps we can work toward – and eventually reach – a point where we thrive together.
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