Friday, June 10, 2011

The Ecological Self

The Ecological Self
by Scott Bradley


For life is the follower of death, and death is the beginning of life; who can discern any fixed order to them?...Since life and death follow each other, what is there to worry about? It is in this way that all things are one...Just open yourself into the single energy that is the world. It is for the sake of this that the sage values oneness.
(Zhuangzi, Chap. 22; B. Ziporyn)

Arne Naess, the Norwegian eco-philosopher, or 'ecosopher' as he has it, makes a case in Deep Ecology for 'self-realization' as a fundamental philosophical starting point for the reverence for Nature which is the essence of deep ecology. We do not care because we should, but because we realize that our individual self is much more than an isolated ego-self; it is interconnected with all that is.

The nurture of the world is the nurture of ourselves. He obviously feels uncomfortable with the term 'self-realization', fearing that it connotes egocentricity. He thus quotes Gandhi to the effect that what he really wanted to achieve in all that he did was self-realization, moksha (liberation). But this 'self' is atman, the Universal Self, not the narrow, egoic self.

Personally, I am not comfortable with the concept of a Universal Self, since it presupposes more than I could possibly know about Reality, but with the oneness of all things that it implies, I feel a visceral agreement. "Just open yourself into the single energy that is the world" says, I think, about all that can and need be said on the nature of Reality and our best response to it.

'Self-realization' then is the broadening of the self-concept to include all that is. And this has practical consequences in our relationship with Nature. As things now stand, however, humanity seems to be engaged in a mass orgy of self-hatred and self-destruction.

You can check out Scott's writings on Zhuangzi here.

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