Dissolving the Concept of Self
From Roadmap to Reality: Consciousness, Worldviews, and the Blossoming of Human Spirit
"Think what it means for children to grow up now, and how different their experience of nature and definition of life is, or soon will be, from the experiences of us adults. In our childhood, it was clear enough when a man was a man and a mouse was a mouse. Implicit in some of the newest technologies [such as growing a human ear on a mouse's back] is the assumption that there's little difference between living and nonliving matter at the atomic and molecular level... Not since the predominance of hunting and gathering have children been taught to see so many similarities between humans and other animals, though now those
similarities are viewed in a very different, more intellectualized way."
--Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods
Seeing Ourselves within the Web of Life
Mysticism has long been associated with deep meditation and enlightened sages, but the rise of mystical processing in mainstream culture can be traced back partly to the work of a biologist hired by NASA to search for life on Mars. James Lovelock initially assumed he would need to invent sophisticated equipment and send it to the red planet, but then realized we could test for life from here via a spectrographic analysis of the Martian atmosphere.
Our own atmosphere is composed of a highly improbable mix of reactive molecules that could not exist without living organisms to continuallfy modify the environment. Lovelock investigated the biosphere and observed that our planet has retained optimal conditions for life in the face of circumstances that could have either frozen or boiled the oceans. Just as our bodies are self-regulating to maintain a stable internal temperature regardless of the weather, the earth somehow acts like a living organism to regulate conditions in a way that is favorable for life. The diverse life forms of the world cooperate as if they were organs of a larger being. Lovelock called this the Gaia theory, after the Greek goddess of earth, creating a new metaphor, a new way of perceiving reality. The Gaia metaphor is a step beyond the web-of-life metaphor of holistic processing; it suggests that we exist like cells within a larger organism.
Meanwhile, there is an emerging view that the human body is similar to Gaia in design, more like a colony or ecosystem of organisms working together than a solitary individual composed of many parts. Such thinking tends to dissolve any remaining concept of self, leading to a new identity that is "we" rather than "I". No longer bound by an identity tied to a specific body, the self is free to identify as anyone or anything, ultimately taking on the identity of the planet itself in a mystical perspective of reality. In this chapter we endeavor to transcend the ego by dissolving the sense of self that separates us from everything else to experience a reality in which we are again "one with nature," but totally aware of the connection.
1. Richard Louv. Last Child in the Woods. Algonquin Books: Chapel Hill, NC. 2005. Pages 22 - 23.
2. James Lovelock. Healing Gaia. Harmony Books: New York, NY. 1991.
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I really enjoyed reading Roadmap, the drawings were great! I don't recall the section I was reading, but the idea of our one-ness with all things has been a theme of my life for the last few years. It is easy to say, we are all made of the same stardust, but i treasure the moments of clarity when i truly know in my soul it is true. I had such a moment while reading your book - i picked up a roadkill fawn, still warm with life's energy and as i thrust my hands into his warm viscera i knew with certainty that i look nearly the same inside and it might as well be me there giving life to another being. And in fact it was me. So blessed am i to know these things. How differently people would live and be if they too knew these things! So good work, Tom, for putting that in a book.
I am quite grateful to you, actually, Tom. There are a lot of voices in my life telling me to shape up, pull it together, get 'normal' get a career and all that, and i struggle to silence them, knowing that i need to follow my own path. Your voice tells me i CAN make what i want happen in this life, and lends validity to my journey. I know i can do more and better for this world by following my heart. Thank you for reminding me.