This series of posts about integrity has to include some thoughts about acting in integrity with the world at large. By this, I mean with the actual earth, its plants, animals, soil, air… all of it. I feel I need to give some back story to give a frame of reference on my position.
Whether we are religious or not, we as Americans and many in Christian and Islamic nations around the world, are influenced greatly by religion, whether we ascribe to it ourselves or not. The Bible states in Genesis that mankind was given dominion over the earth. For reference, here is the quote from the King James version of the bible:
26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
This quote – I personally believe and many scholars agree – gave mankind a sense that the earth and all its inhabitants were ours to do with as we pleased. In times past, man lived in close association with the earth and understood the value of living in integrity with the land. If he did not, he would go hungry. There was a very direct and real consequence. Our technologically advanced society has allowed us to move away from that close association. There are very few among us who directly work with the land, even those that do rely on resources brought from far away places to make the job easier. Our distant ancestors didn’t have this available. If they needed it they had to create it themselves. Because of this we have lost our connection. We no longer understand how to take care of the earth and its inhabitants. In times past, we were caretakers – not rulers – of the earth, because we understood deeply our relationship to it. We need to move back into a relationship of caretaker. Having integrity with the earth means we must become caretakers and treat the earth with respect. Show gratitude and appreciation for its abundance.
One ideology I have isn’t very popular, but it should be. The earth and all its inhabitants are sentient. We all know that animals feel. Most don’t realize that plants feel as well. There are now many scientific studies that show this. Very few know that the soil under our feet also feels. The soil is alive. It is filled with living things. Millions of organisms live in each square inch. The mycelial mat that lives in the soil communicates over vast distances… and it feels. The largest living organism in the world is a mycelial mat in the forest of the northwest United States. It covers 2,385 acres and studies have shown that it communicates over its entire area. When one area is damaged the entire mat knows in milliseconds and responds. That same mycelial mat communicates with all the plants living with it and the mycelial mats living near it. They communicate at a rate faster than we can duplicate. It is near instant. Think about that for a few minutes. To put it into something you can more closely understand and relate to. If you break your toe, your entire body knows almost instantly. If you damage the earth, the entire planet knows almost instantly. I know that is a little hard to grasp. The concept of something that vast is beyond our comprehension, but that doesn’t make it untrue. For me it gives an entirely new outlook on living in integrity with the earth. If the earth itself is sentient and we accept that along with the responsibility that knowledge has attached, well, … we have screwed up.
So if all this is true, what now? How do we live in integrity with the earth and its inhabitants? Humans require food, shelter, etc, so we have to consume things from the earth to survive. My take on it is reciprocity. If you take you must give back. Some of us are blessed to be able to live on large areas of land where this principle is easier to apply. For those living in cities it becomes much more difficult. I believe our society needs to make it a priority to leave natural green areas, large ones. We need to watch our waste so we consume only that which is needed. Our construction methods should be more in tune with the earth and less polluting. It needs to be taught to our children that the earth must be tended, maintained, and honored. We must rid our thinking of the idea that the earth and its inhabitants are here for us to use. We are not rulers over it, we are caretakers of it. We must think about generations to come and act with integrity toward it.
Acting outside of integrity with the earth and its inhabitants does have consequences. These come about over generations, so it is easy for us to forget they still happen. Ignore it and all of us suffer. This consequence is global; what you do today can affect your children, their children, and the children that live all over the planet. No you won’t suffer yourself most likely, at least not that is greatly apparant. That makes this part of integrity easy to let slide. That doesn’t mean it isn’t just as important. That also doesn’t mean that deep down, where that knowing of who you are lives, you don’t know. You do know and living out of integrity does have a price to pay.
My next post I will try to wrap up where this all leads us.