Repositioning humanity in the greater scheme of things.
Like goldfish in a bowl totally ignorant of “water,” we often fail to notice how colonized our consciousness has become by capitalism and how the resulting ideology permeates our life.
We find we revert to the same flawed thoughts that caused our problems to fix them. The recession of 2007 was followed with the expansion of a litany of environmental harms caused by previous development. Western Governments have doubled-down on neoliberalism: greater austerity, widened gaps of inequality, less regulation, greater global CO2 emissions — all in the quest for economic growth. We’ve hit the accelerator instead of the brakes as we mercilessly try to do things better — when we should open our eyes to the “water” all around us.
Our problems are those of ideology, belief, perception, values and identity — so, we need a shift in all these phenomena if we are to overcome our current problems. This task is complex and overwhelming without a singular correct route to success. We must look to science and learn what it can tell us about our relationship to the natural world — to which we are fundamentally tied.
Contrary to the claims of anthropocentrism (human centeredness) maintained solely by cultural inertia, man is not separate from nature. The relationship is in fact interdependent and interconnected. All things share one origin. This information has yet to be culturally assimilated. This understanding provides a shift in pre-analytic vision engendering alternatives to our current, flawed cultural information. It allows us to see the water of Western ideology and encourages us to think anew from an eco-centric point of view with the potential to reframe our identity, our values and therefore our culture, so we and future generations may be better placed to solve the problems essential to survival.
An important discovery was made in the 1920s. Lemaitre and Hubble observed galaxies moving away from us in all directions, and it became clear the furthest away were moving the fastest, proving that the universe is expanding. The principle of this discovery also infers that, were we to rewind time to before the expansion, everything in the universe would be in one place — it originated as a singularity — a small, almost infinitely dense point expanding to form the universe as we know it.
Charles Darwin’s research exposed additional existentially important discoveries. The facts of which have permeated our culture, but without an understanding when combined with Lemaitre and Hubble’s work. Their synthesis of knowledge brings a natural conclusion to the theory of evolution: all life on Earth descends from a single common ancestor. A single celled organism often called the Last Universal Ancestor (LUA) that lived 3.7 billion years ago, yet shares many common traits with bacteria alive today. From both discoveries we can see that every living thing shares a common origin, as do all things in the universe. With this knowledge, the story of how we came to be here emerges under a new light.
This story begins when a single point of near-infinite quantum density saw an inflammatory kick in pressure that released the energy of the BIG BANG! As it cooled, it gave rise to hydrogen and helium atoms, the gravitational fields of these atoms drew them together into clouds that amassed over millions of years. The growing friction and compaction saw the birth of the first stars illuminating the universe. Inside these stars hydrogen atoms (1 proton) were fused to form helium (2 protons). Helium atoms fused together to form heavier atoms. Through a cosmic cycle of birth and explosive death, bigger stars were formed that could fuse even more protons into atoms up until iron, which has 26. Heavier elements, such as gold, could not be fused even in the hearts of the biggest stars. Instead they needed a supernova, a stellar explosion large enough to outshine a galaxy and produce more energy in a few weeks than our sun will produce in its entire lifetime.
The next time you look at the gold in your jewelery, you can remind yourself you are wearing debris of a supernova exploded in the depths of space. You can remind yourself such stellar fusions and explosions produced all the elements in the universe, including the carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, calcium, phosphorus and other atoms our bodies are constructed of. We ourselves are made of Big Bang debris … we are made of the same dust as the stars. It’s filtered through iterations of cosmic evolution that saw the emergence of our galaxy, solar system and planet from which the LUA and all the species came and went. This almost magical sounding story of what happens when hydrogen is left alone to be governed only by the laws of nature for 13.8 billion years is much like its contents in the story itself — CONSTANTLY EVOLVING.
We are part of an ongoing cosmic evolutionary process. Every atom in our bodies was forged in the death throes of stars. We share DNA with all life on Earth: from trees in a rainforest to fungi in the Cornish soil. The woman across the road or a dog you crossed in the park. Despite the cultural inertia of anthropocentrism-based science, we are not separate. WE ARE ONE. When we reposition our perspective it sheds new light on what it means to be human. It is not all about us. It is about something much larger — something we are a part of.
We can at all times be guided by two well-established pieces of advice that, from an eco-centric perspective, take on greater significance: “know thyself” and “to thine own self be true.” To take our first steps then, let us look at ourselves, our planet and the life upon it as well as the cosmos of all we have discovered and ask: what is it to be human and how do we live as a result?