We can fall into the tide and become a part of the ocean.
Arne Naess talks about the intrinsic relations between living creatures in his philosophy of Deep Ecology. Without one thing the other thing cannot exist as it is. We are part of a chain that requires our cooperation in order to coexist peacefully, and this isn’t a chain of humans but a universal, spiritual chain of all living matters on Earth. When I look at the sea I am reminded of this vital role we all have, in being aware of our effects on everything around us and consciously choosing to respect and nurture nature with love. I can’t stress how hugely critical it is for humans to step over the boundaries society has manufactured, to face the challenges of finding or following solutions for a better world for all, and accept what is clearly true: we are responsible, we are harming the planet and other species, and we are harming ourselves by choosing to be detached. We are always interconnected as one, and the consequences of turning a shoulder to this truth will fall on our own heads.
When facing the spectacular Mt Askja, Paul Skulason wondered, ‘How do totalities, self-contained wholes, come to be, and what kinds of totalities are there? And how do connections come to be, and what kinds of connections are there?’ It is easier to speculate upon this thought when facing something as beautiful and evidently natural as the ocean, because we feel this pulling of connections and interlinked bonds that go way beyond our existence. This is when we are often in awe through a numinous consciousness. Numinous means holy or sacred; it is something that exists when nature and the mind link together to form a transcendental, not quite definable something in your being. This can be felt when in awe of sublime landscapes, an undeniable understanding of the power of nature and the size of humans in retrospect. To feel connected to nature is like feeling at home, and this sense of belonging is a source of peace and happiness.
This is why it is so important to preserve it. Nature makes us feel more human. Civilization tries to push environmental issues into a locked room and this may mean it is necessary to radically change how we develop our civilization. The up circuit and down circuit of energy is a beautiful description by Aldo Leopold in 'The Land of Ethics'. Thousands of different species drawing in and breathing out energy beneath the surface of the water, living in accordance to Naess' principle of bio spherical egalitarianism, illustrating the lovely idea ‘to live and let live’, a euphemism of the more human 'me or you' stream of thought. Shiva is the symbol for the force of creation and destruction, and isn't that the most perfect way to describe the ocean? This philosophy emphasizes the importance of the harmony of male and female principles and the continuity between society and nature, which creates an Earth family. A mutual understanding and care between all things living is important for everyone and everything, especially the human species, as our future resources and necessities such as compassion and health depend on it.
While the sea makes me feel vulnerable with its power, I also feel like we must all protect it from the chemical harms humans are imposing on this giant shape. Responsibility can be scary, and we often hide beneath layers of excuses, point our fingers east and west, but we must firmly acknowledge and accept our responsibility for all of nature’s illnesses. "Man is the interpreter of nature, so he can control nature,” is a well-known line by Francis Bacon and one that can be followed by Lynn White’s statement, that we have to rethink our axioms. How silly it is to see ourselves as the centre from which all things extend. We need to eradicate this selfishness by exposing ourselves to nature and be made humble; much like the rain erodes the surface of a rock over time. Leopold distinguishes between an ecological and philosophical view of ethics. Ecologically, an ethic is a limitation on freedom of action in the struggle for existence. Philosophically, it is the differentiation of social from anti-social conducts. We need to make it the social norm to be ecological.
On an individual scale the project of living ecologically is not an elephant of an ordeal, but when forced to expand my thoughts to my household, then my town, then my city, my country, the whole world… It is difficult to perceive it as a positive moral challenge, rather than an impossible ideal that seems to fade into dreams. How can I twist our lifestyles around, when we are drowning in buildings and money? It is a heavy weight that stops me when I want to criticize someone for their recycling or meat eating habits, or when the words ‘I don’t care’ escape their mouths. I usually feel like I am not morally superior, nor am I very knowledgeable, so how can I talk to people about these sorts of environmental issues? But I think it is so important to become educated and persevere to raise these uncomfortable issues, because there is no such thing as small change and we must start somewhere. I am so sick of being flattened down by words of discouragement, but I am so sincerely in love with and inspired by all the little details in the entirety of nature, that my emotions are the foundation of my idea about an ethics of nature. We can fall into the tide and become a part of the ocean.
Words by Joanna Cho