The Relationship Between the Individual, Society and Nature

Civilization and nature are integrally connected. Humans have a covenant with the biosphere that influences our understanding and behavior and our relationship to the natural world. That relationship has been conventionally framed as individuals being separate and superior to the natural world and thus entitled to exploit it. This perception has spawned the ecological crisis we are experiencing today. Much of our thinking and behavior has been promoted by the perceived need to dominate and control each other and that notion has been projected out into nature as well.

Parallel to this notion, individuals and civilization are also intertwined in a relationship that supports the evolution of our species but also seems to spawn incongruences as well. It seems as though the needs of the individual and that of society cannot be accommodated adequately and that there will always be interests that cannot be satisfied. This condition exists only because the needs of the individual have been often subordinated to the needs of the establishment, usually because the power holders desire it to be this way to ensure their interests are met. If a transformation of the system is to be realized in which equality is the preferred norm, some drastic changes are in order.

Three areas that need critical attention are the relationship between humans and the biosphere, the relationship between individuals and the relationship of the individual to herself or himself.

The human-nature relationship would emulate a state of kinship, respect and reverence in which all aspects of the universe would be considered important for their intrinsic worth. This would include all living and non-living entities as they are instrumental in providing the conditions in which life can be initiated and sustained. Humans would be aware of nature’s operating conditions and restraints or the fact that it is a closed system and live within Gaia’s parameters. This does not mean being subservient and fearful to the forces of nature nor does it mean feeling superior or entitled to it. It implies an acceptance of the covenant we have with the natural world and embracing that wisdom, even if we dislike some of its implications such as mutual predation.

The relationship between individuals globally needs to be transformed into that of a friendship but at a significantly deeper level than we normally would think of. Such a depth relationship would include: peaceful coexistence, involvement with others, learning from others, being helpful to others, being open to dialogue and new ideas, understanding at deeper levels and mutual respect.

The transformation of the relationship to the self would necessitate a deep knowing of the self in regard to understanding one’s own nature, an awareness of personal desires and needs and the restraining of desires and demands that are not reasonably attainable without diminishing the lives of others.

Society is the larger context or extension of the family system. It actually endorses the concept of a global community that is ultimately working toward the same collective human goals and objectives. In order for society to be effective, it must adhere to a philosophy of equality and justice for all and must eliminate impediments to achieving this function. Society must put aside prejudice, racism, nationalism, colonialism and other obstacles that promote disharmony and conflict so individuals can attain their individual visions and goals in life without interference and opposition due to ideological differences. Society as a whole will not succeed until everyone on the planet has the potential for actualization and fulfillment and can have the experience that their lives have made a difference in making the world a better place in which to live.

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