I had a conversation with a Great Blue Heron the other morning. It had circled in over the lower pond and then lifted up to land at the top of a tall pine tree. I used to see these herons often when I lived in western Washington, but they are infrequent visitors in this area of the Sierra foothills, so it was a thrill to have this one stop by to visit. My side of the conversation went something like, “Good morning! So lovely to see you. Thank you for visiting. I love you.” The heron’s side of the conversation went something like, ” Ahwergg. Gergg. Rahwagg. Gergg.”
It was a conversation. I said one of my lines. The heron responded. I said my next line. The heron responded again. I believe the translation of heron-speak would be something along the lines of, “Thank you for the welcome. I am looking for some breakfast. Yes, I appreciate seeing you too. I am interested in the fish there in the pond.” I had a feeling of joy and camaraderie as I bid goodbye and got out of the way of the heron’s fishing.
Entanglement is thought to lie at the heart of quantum physics – and hence the entire universe. Connections and relationships lie at the heart of any form of ecological gardening or farming or living. This is the key insight that fuels the entire permaculture design system. The more cooperative connections in a garden (or neighborhood/farm/town/ranch/nation), the more productive and resilient it will be. Connections and relationships are what create any and all ecologies.
Bonnie Basler has a marvelous TED talk describing her discoveries of the language used by bacteria to communicate with each other. Along the way she mentions that there are ten times as many bacteria living in and on our bodies as there are human cells. If you compare the number of strands of DNA, there is one hundred times more bacterial DNA than human DNA in and on a human body. Bacteria cover our skin giving us important additional protection from the outside world. Bacteria digest a good portion of the food we ingest, making its nutrients more available to us. Bacteria train our immune system to properly do its job. In short, without the relationship to bacteria, humans could not exist.
Fungi play a similarly important role in the soil. They form a protective layer that helps to retain moisture. They digest carbon materials like wood and leaves, releasing a host of nutrients in the process. They connect the tree roots in a forest into one network that shares water, food, and information. Without fungi, trees and forests could not exist.
These are just two examples of the utterly connected nature of this planet. Two examples that demonstrate how irrational any view of “separate” is. Individual humans, bacteria, and fungi are “relatively independent subtotalities” to borrow a phrase coined by David Bohm, one of quantum physics’ finest. To imagine ourselves or any other thing as actually separate is sheer lunacy.
These are exciting times at so many levels. Science, much to the horror of many scientists, teeters at the gates of spirituality. As holes in the Big Bang theory gape open, some of the proposed repairs sound strangely similar to the Hindu concept of the universe as the breathing of Brahma. Quantum physics has demonstrated that consciousness, that fundamental constituent of spirit, is essential to the formation of matter and to the existence of outcomes. And all the while, this beautiful blue-green planet spins and revolves and travels through spacetime, changing in ways we are encouraged to fear, but do not truly understand.
Humans have two sides to their brains, left and right. Two sides to their minds, conscious and subconscious. (There is likely more to both brains and minds, but for now two parts works.) I thoroughly enjoy the rational, analytical, linear capabilities of my left brain and conscious mind. I also thoroughly enjoy the intuitive, symbolic, wholistic functioning of my right brain and subconscious mind. Each on its own feels incomplete. Together, working in tandem, connected and relating, that is an experience that makes for a magnificent day. The kind of day when you get to talk to a Great Blue Heron.
I have a question for 2012. What is the full potential of the ecological role of human beings here on Earth?
I know that for the past several thousand years, and with tremendous escalation in the past few hundred, we have often been a destructive force in this planet’s ecologies. Okay. That is not the totality of who we are or what we are capable of being. We are incredibly well designed. What are we capable of? What pathways lie open to us beyond the technocratic and domineering? What connections can we build? What relationships can we catalyze and nurture? What can we contribute to furthering the evolution of this Life-system we call Earth?
I welcome reader comments on this question as the year goes along. What are your experiences? What are your hunches? What connections are you creating in your gardens or in the wilds or in the cities? What potentials are searching for expression through you? What are your dreams of entanglement here on Earth?