Facts and figures do not wake people up to the truth of their unity with
nature. It is the direct encounter with nature that wakes one up to that
truth. My experience of whale watch naturalists is that our patter is
all about facts and figures. Whales are fascinating creatures, but it is
not the facts and figures, not the knowledge about whales that reaches
and changes people. It is the fact of the whale itself, it is the
unmediated encounter with the unknown and unknowable magnificence of the
whale. Facts and figures appeal to the mind. Unmediated encounter
appeals to the whole organism, the whole movement of life in a person.
To me, this is one of the most important things we can do for people,
from a very early age, to give them the opportunity to see that there is
no separation between them and the natural world. Trying to manage the
natural world seems a little crazy to me. It is too complex. Our brains
and our mental models of the world are too simplistic. Nature is alive,
for God’s sake. As soon as you figure it out, it has changed! What we
need most is not managers but respectful participants in the unfolding
of nature. Not control but respectful participation. Where does that
respect come from, the willingness to look and listen really carefully?
It seems to come from some experience of the natural world that is
unmediated. A direct encounter with something that strikes to the core
and says to the individual human brain, you are this. You are not
separate from this. You and this are one and the same. Take care.
This is where I am trying to go, not only through whale watches and
through whale programs, but through other means. To create the
circumstances in which the human brain might be able to see that it is
in no way separate, to get it to stop for one small moment the constant
stream of separating chatter and story, to allow reality to meet reality
and realize they are one. To correct the deadly imbalance that has come
into the world because the human brain thinks it is in charge, in
control, that it is capable of understanding everything, and through
perfect understanding will come perfect living.
Life already lives itself just fine, thank you very much. It doesn’t
need any help from human brains. Sorry, human brain, you are pretty
amazing, but you can’t hold a candle to life itself. You can be pretty
smart, but your intelligence is only a tiny slice of the intelligence of
the whole of life. When you set yourself against nature, which is your
own nature, you are being very dumb indeed.
Maybe it is time to stop thinking that all the answers to our problems
will come out of the human brain. Maybe it is time to start listening
deeply to what nature has to tell us.
This seems to me a rather lovely place for the human mind to come to
rest: in the recognition that it is but one of the multitude of
expressions of Life’s intelligence, and therefore conscious of all that
it receives from life. Knowing all that life provides it, perhaps it
will in turn treat life with the care and respect it deserves. It can
not keep going the way it has been, pretending that it is separate and
independent of all of the rest of life. That is its fundamental error,
and that error is making the whole world inhospitable to human life, and
many other lives as well.