“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
„To live is to breathe, for our relation to the world is not that of being thrown into it, of being within the world, nor is it that of the dominion of a subject over an object that is opposite to it: Being-in-the-world means experiencing a transcendental immersion. Immersion – whose original dynamic is breath – is defined as mutual entanglement.“
(Emanuele Coccia, The Roots of the World – A Philosophy of Plants)
In the beginning, plants were the real creators of our world. They create the atmosphere (air) that makes the diverse life on earth possible.
In our culture, we still regard plants as insensitive objects and not as living beings. On the internet I found a quote from Robin Wall Kimmerer, a plant ecologist and member of the Potawatomi tribe, which illustrates that plants are (still) held in high esteem in other cultures.
«In some Native languages the term for plants translates to „those who take care of us.»
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Over the centuries, large parts of humanity have lost sight of the fact that everything in nature is interconnected and that the interaction and interpenetration of different life forms is the basis of the complex ecosystem Earth. It makes no sense to look at the element of air in isolation. Rather, it is precisely the air that connects us all and enables different forms of communication – for example, via sound waves, the electromagnetic field or the spread of pheromones (scent molecules). We have created a world for ourselves in which other living beings play a subordinate role. With fatal consequences for ourselves. The word for this is „anthropocentrism“.
There is something in the air
In recent years, it can be observed that movements demanding change are emerging all over the world: Arab Spring, Fridays For Future, Black Lives Matter, Me Too – all these movements are not local events, but are happening simultaneously on different continents. They are directed against structural disadvantage, oppression and the destruction of the environment. The need for fundamental change seems to be „in the air“, the time is ripe. What unites these movements is not only the longing for freedom and justice, but also the realisation that problems can only be solved across borders and cultures.
I see many signs of a paradigm shift in the world. The recent findings in the natural sciences already mentioned and the gradual opening up to interdisciplinary dialogue are paving the way for a new world view that designs a universe that is permeated with intelligence right down to the individual cell. Intelligent cells, living beings cooperating with each other, electromagnetic fields through which everything is interconnected – this is a distinctly different conception from the mechanistic world view that has dominated our cultural sphere since the 16th century.
And it is inspiring because it suggests that we are not alone in our efforts to „save the climate“. Numerous reforestation projects show that ecosystems are recovering faster than expected thanks to the „cooperation“ of the plant world, especially the trees.
At a time when people are facing great challenges, „resilience“ has become an important term. It refers to the ability to cope with extraordinary demands and difficult situations without negative consequences for mental health. Resilience is a prerequisite for us to be able to actively shape the change that cannot be stopped. That is why I consider the question of what we can do to maintain our inner balance to be an important one.
An attentive and supportive social environment that offers safety and security is certainly a decisive factor. But also a culture that creates spaces where people can meet and exchange without fear. I can think of a whole range of other factors that I associate with resilience: Curiosity, enthusiasm, creativity, inspiration, vision, access to places in nature and the ability to relax. One cultural technique that is growing in popularity is meditation – consciously connecting with „our element“, the air. Breathing helps to calm down and – regular meditation has been shown to strengthen the immune system.
In a busy world, where several actors compete for our attention, meditation offers a free space in which we can sensually experience being immersed in the world.
We are currently facing a whole series of threatening scenarios, first and foremost the climate crisis and the extinction of species, worldwide armed conflicts over the remaining resources and, more recently, viruses, the increased occurrence of which we must expect from now on because the earth’s ecosystem has suffered greatly due to our overexploitation. The writer August Strindberg is credited with the sentence: „All culture is one great, endless collaboration“. Does this not apply equally to the complex ecosystem of the Earth?
We now have the chance to renew our relationship with the living world. And there are many examples of how this can succeed. In the „Literature“ section, I present a selection of inspiring books that make you want to engage with the topic of „change“ in a constructive way. I am convinced that a new scientific culture, which is oriented towards the intelligence of nature and grants nature an „actor function“, could be part of the solution. Provided that a change in consciousness takes place and the common goal is then a global cooperation that keeps the entire ecosystem in mind.
Big changes do not come out of the blue. They announce themselves long beforehand. For the fourth time in its history, humanity is facing a „revolution of thought“.
The air is invisible but not empty space. An infinite number of tiny particles move in and through it – atoms, molecules, bacteria, viruses – the so-called aerosols. The air enables a vital interplay between particles and living beings, which engage in a lively exchange of information and constantly renew themselves. What we perceive as solid bodies are actually bodies in flowing motion.
Thanks to the invention of the electron microscope, scientists have been able to see and study the „tiny companions“ that populate our world for several decades. Therefore, we now have the certainty that the existence of solid bodies is an illusion. The full extent of this knowledge has not yet reached us.
A new normal?
An invisible particle, the virus that has been keeping the whole world on tenterhooks since the beginning of 2020, has changed our lives in ways we would not have thought possible until then. We have been living in a state of emergency for over a year now. The air, our most important „food“, has become a danger zone, contact avoidance the order of the day.
What are the consequences for our psyche? What about our resilience?
I notice that it has become more difficult to talk to each other. I am not alone in my assessment. For some time now, there has been a lack of spaces that help to develop a sense of „we“ and to exchange ideas. But we need the perspective of others.
This „speechlessness“ worries me. How could a climate of mistrust and insinuations develop that is characterised by linguistic defamation of dissenters and placing them sweepingly in the right-wing corner? I ask myself how we can get out of this.
Plants sense whether we are well-disposed towards them. In other words, they send out messages that have an effect on us. It has been scientifically proven that we find peace in the presence of plants and that healing processes are even accelerated. It is interesting that communication largely takes place unconsciously.
We are unquestionably connected to each other and use common channels to exchange information. The connecting medium is air. Exchange and mixing are the basis of all creative life processes.
The „intellectual climate“ is not in good shape at the moment. Many channels are blocked. The consequences are depression and stagnation. While we are all affected in some way by the measures to contain the pandemic, the effects are very different depending on the external circumstances. Many people have lost what made up their lives so far in the last few months. The number of those suffering from loneliness and depression is growing. But not only since the outbreak of the pandemic. So the causes lie deeper.
I think the reference to the quality of social contacts is worth considering. We don’t just talk to each other to pass the time. Many conversations are held in order to get an orientation with regard to a topic, to work out one’s own point of view more clearly for oneself, to question it, to compare it with other points of view. „Opinion-forming“ is an ongoing process in which, at best, we remain open to other perspectives and convincing arguments and allow ourselves to be brought to new ideas.
At present, cultural practitioners repeatedly emphasise, and rightly so, that they provide the „spiritual nourishment“ that is indispensable for us humans and contribute to resilience. And they complain that this important task of culture is too little perceived and valued in the current crisis. To put it bluntly, we as a society do not sufficiently consider the importance of a positive, affirmative attitude to life, as well as stimulation for the mind, with regard to health, creativity and personal development. And we need both if we are to face the challenges that change brings with it.
The heated atmosphere, the way we are currently dealing with each other is a clear indication of a lack of trust and confidence on the one hand and an excess of fear on the other.
Crises confront us with extraordinary circumstances. Sometimes with circumstances that have never existed before. Accordingly, there is no superordinate authority that would have a complete picture. This makes it all the more important to reflect together, to engage in a broad social discourse.
There is no doubt that we have had to say goodbye to many habits, some of which we have grown fond of, in recent months. However, this has also created new freedom. We were able to experience that restrictions on our freedom of movement had positive effects on the environment. Clean air instead of smog, the recovery of water bodies, birds whose songs became more differentiated and complex after they no longer had to sing against the traffic noise. The crisis would also have a good thing if it helps us to think more about what is really important in life and pay more attention to the living world around us again.
Whether corona, climate change or species extinction – we humans are partly responsible for the current problems. And there is no escape. This is being mirrored to us right now.
Our home planet Earth is a living organism that has produced an abundance of life forms that influence each other in their development. As much as we would like to be, we are not autonomous. Without the oxygen that plants produce, we would not exist. Without pollinating insects, we don’t have much time left before we starve to death.
There are people who dream of colonising Mars and using technical means to create an atmosphere that makes animal life possible. Instead of embarking on the adventure of becoming truly intelligent players in this wonderfully complex „network of nature“.
It has not yet been finally decided where the journey will lead. But this journey is a challenge in any case.
„(…)That is why we need a worldwide revolution of consciousness immediately. If we all understand and accept that the challenges are life-threatening, we can still save our Earth and ensure the survival of our species – maybe!“
(Anders Indset, Quantum Economy)