A Less Anthropocentric View

Ours is an anthropocentric view, a view that humans come first, life second, and humans own everything else, what Einstein called a delusion. But it didn’t always used to be like this. Things used to be more anthropocentric. For example, we used to think the Earth was the centre of the universe. But before that, things used to be less anthropocentric. In fact, they used to be what Peter Burdon calls eco-centric (ewl, 85), life-centred. Maybe it’s time for new glasses, to get back to a less anthropocentric view, and move ahead into our future.

But can we get there from here, or have we reached a point of no return and we can’t go back? In that case, how do we move forward? I don’t know the whole picture from beginning to end, but right we need a story. And for the modern human, that story needs to be told with science.

It’s significant that scientists are being muzzled, for they are our prophets, our truth-speakers. The future is a brave, new world. It needs a brave, new truth. It needs scientists speaking freely and truly.

So, Burdon maintains we must tell the ancient story in a new way, the way of science, for, ‘detached from mechanistic assumptions, science is a superlative tool for investigating the physical world.’ Thomas Berry says the physical world is marked by three interrelated processes: communion,  differentiation, and autopoesis.

Communion is also known as interconnectedness. Everything is related to everything else. In fact, the relationships may be more important, more real, than the entities, something mystics like Hildegard of Bingen knew: ‘everything … is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness’  [quoted in ewl, 87]. Burdon notes that while it is ‘easy to see interconnectedness in nature [such as a forest, … it] is much harder to recognize that even a city is part of nature. Indeed, every single component of a city comes from nature and will be re-absorbed back into the Earth in time’ [ewl, 88].

Rather than Cartesian hierarchical taxonomies, we are learning to arrange knowledge in networks. But networks cannot be understood discretely, only as wholes, echoed in physics, observed in ecology. There are no parts, really, only relationships.

Differentiation is also known as diversity and complexity. Uniformity and anthropocentricism (with its emphasis on the supremacy of a single species) contravene the natural order. Humans ourselves are not only the are the products of diversity, we are diversity incarnate.

Autopoesis, ‘the power each thing has to participate in the cosmos-creating endeavour,’ [Swimme and Berry quoted in ewl, 90] is also known as subjectivity, self-manifestation, or interiority. On Earth, ‘autopoesis refers to the aggregate, emergent properties of the gas-swapping, gene-trading growing and evolving organisms’ collectively known as the Gaia hypothesis [ewl, 92].

Even though the Earth is no longer the centre of the universe, humans still matter. We will matter more when we find our place in the sun, our rightful place in the grand scheme of things. But if we don’t change our tune, we might not matter at all.

Learning this story, learning these processes, is our great work. ‘As individuals, we must learn to assimilate this revelation and look at the universe with fresh ideas. As a culture , we must evolve our social institutions toward a vision of Ecozoic era’ [ewl, 92].

This vision is diverse: I read about in this anthology, I see it in this video from Sao Paulo, I hear it in ‘Wake Up Hill‘ by Old Man Luedecke, I see it in such efforts the Midland Community Gardens. This vision unites us all (in fact, we were never truly separate). By this vision we participate in the cosmos-creating endeavour.

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