The other day, I turned on the TV to a relatively slow-moving documentary in hopes of a few minutes of spacing out or relaxing without thinking too much. Flipping through the channels, I chose a nature documentary, as I love nature and relax when I can spend time with it. Then, I got drawn into the program, and emerged sometime later impressed by how in nature, with the exception of a few lone creatures such as some predators, life grows in community, in flocks, hives, herds, packs and, even in the plant kingdom, groves of trees and other plant species. Cooperation and community seem to be one of nature’s imperatives, structures which ensure that various groups of living species can thrive. I had been subliminally aware of this before; now, it impressed me. Perhaps the nature that many of us humans seem intent upon destroying is giving us an insight into how we ourselves may survive.
Much human organization is in large units called countries, states, cities, and the like, but historically and increasingly these huge, organized entities are less and less like a true community, in which the benefit of the smallest member is as important as the benefit of the whole. For the majority, the true organization seems to be separate. Once there were extended families and close neighborhoods. Those morphed into the mobile nuclear family, and then into units of singles or of temporarily allied singles, roommates. At the same time, relationships became more fluid and of shorter duration. All that may have benefited the consumer economy, as multiple units of fewer people each required, for example, each its own vacuum cleaner or dishwasher or clothes dryer. However, it has left the majority of us separated from each other, from nature and from community.
Those of us who will look can see for themselves the effect of the combined lifestyles of the mainstream. Weather has become more destructive and unpredictable. Soils are becoming less fertile as our pesticides destroy them. The rainforest is disappearing. The extinction rate of species has accelerated exponentially. The ocean is acidifying, and parts of it are dying. We ourselves are facing the aesthetic and health impacts of pollution, and – whether we realize it or not – of separation from each other, from nature, and from the creative matrix from which all emerges. It is not only species of our fellow beings here on Earth who are facing extinction, but also we ourselves.
In our state of separation, we seem to have turned to our science and technology to save us from the truth that we are connected not only to each other, but also to the Earth itself and all the species on it in what is often called a web of life. For many of us, the belief that we are masters of all other life, and that we do not have to change our ways because our science and technology will absolve us of consequences and will create habitats for us that are safe and nurturing, despite what happens to everything else. Even though the wisest of scientists understand the connection to nature and that much of scientific progress has been an imitation of nature, many people seem to be unaware that in taking the stance we do, we are destroying ourselves along with the other life that we destroy.
What would it be like if we returned to community and taught ourselves to live sustainably on the Earth? What would it be like if we were to seek out nature, respect nature, and develop ways which were in harmony with nature? What would it be like if we had as much access to trees, soil, clean air and water as we currently have to concrete, cars and pollution? What major changes would we need to make to ourselves to achieve that?
We have models; groups of people have for some time now banded together to create what is called intentional community. Not all of them are the same; many are quite different. In nature, a herd is not the same as a hive or as a flock. Some are urban; many are rural and are learning and practicing sustainable and regenerative agriculture. There are artists and scientists and craftspeople, farmers and businesspeople and educators, and people of different persuasions. People of like mind tend to live together, and each group respects the life and orientation of groups which are different. This is a new system. It does not rely on a large, overseeing government to regulate and provide for us as if we were children who could not do that for ourselves, as if it were OK for us to not think very deeply. It does not rely on what is outside of ourselves, the products of corporations or the results of politics to find and implement the ways in which we need to behave to reverse the process of destroying our Earth, its denizens and ourselves. Community presupposes that we in cooperation with others are responsible for these things.
It is crisis time. We inch closer and closer to an irreversible tipping point. It is time to wake up, to save ourselves from collectively hurling ourselves off a cliff. It is time to transcend our distractions of pandemics, differences (all of us are equally human), wars and internal conflicts that would silence or eliminate whichever group of us “lost” political battles. It is time that we realized that we are all in essence one, coming from the same source, equally valued and equally responsible. It is time we work together and form community – learning from those of us who have begun before us and contributing our own perspectives as we grow. We need the time of cooperation; continued competition and conflict, continued emphasis on “winning over” will succeed only in destroying us all.
Let us all, whatever groups we affiliate with, whatever beliefs we hold, whatever our wounds or state of healing, realize that the other is a sister or brother and come together to create community. Let us learn to work cooperatively together. Our well-being and our survival depend upon it.