We can tell ourselves another story
Narratives matter. Reality is influenced by the way we think about it. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, we are what we pretend to be. Or in the concept of the Yoga Sutras attributed to Patanjali, loosely paraphrased: when we truly focus on the universal good, we become (one with) it.
This morning, I thought about this as it applies to environmental degradation, and to the way in which (some or many) humans are destroying our most basic living conditions: water, air, natural habitat. I confess that my most common feeling with regard to this is despair or disgust. We are vermin, I will say, without much irony. We humans are the true virus on the planet.
But the inevitability of this line of thinking blocks action. It’s like that fable with the scorpion who can’t help stinging the frog carrying it across the river: it is the nature of the scorpion to sting, even if it dies as a result. This is the story I have been telling myself about humans: it is our nature to destroy our environment, even if we die as a result. The corollary of this is that we might as well give up.
I don’t actually believe that.
And, moreover, it is manifestly untrue. There are several human communities who have lived, and in some cases continue to live, in harmony with the planet, without overuse or depletion. We have the capacity. We can actually do this.
That is the story I want to tell myself and others. We are what we pretend to be. Narratives matter. If we focus on the good in us, we are it.