I’ve been reading a very thoughtful and intriguing book recently called, Matter and Desire, An Erotic Ecology by Andreas Weber. He’s a biologist, philosophy professor, and writer. In this book, he explores the ecology of relationship and how the individual of any species can only live, grow, and be known in relationship with others.
Ecology and Business
I’m appreciating this book so much, because of how I see this relating to the ways we do business and live our economic lives. All too often the harshness of our economic world and callous business decisions are defended by our understanding of the natural world. After all, “it’s a dog eat dog world out there.” Since nature is “red in tooth and claw”, it is only natural that when we compete for our resources, there will be winners and losers. It’s every man for himself.
Well, a new understanding of ecology has been emerging.
Andreas Weber tells us:
“The principles made apparent by biological research show us that life is, at nearly every level, a collective concern, a shared enterprise undertaken by a wide variety of beings that arrive at a stable, functional, and thereby beautiful ecosystem by somehow putting up with one another and reaching agreements. Rivalry, competition, and selection in the Darwinian sense definitely play a role, but this is not the merciless final word; it is simply one force among many that living systems use to create and form themselves our of a multiplicity of participants.” (emphasis mine)
“For that reason, it would be better to say that biologists understand that life is a phenomenon of absolute communality.”
If this is how life works…
If this is how life works, what if we saw ourselves that way? What if we saw that we are each absolutely connected to the whole? To quote Mary Oliver, “We are each other’s destiny.” She wasn’t just speaking of people, but “the pine tree, the leopard, the Platte River, and ourselves.”
If our businesses and economic decisions were based on the understanding that our personal flourishing is tied to flourishing of the whole, what different decisions would we make? If we understood that our natural world was not a battleground of natural selection, but an ecosystem of emergence from multiple forces including competition, but also collaboration and interdependence, would that shift our personal understanding of our own “battlegrounds” we enter into every day? Would that allow us to soften our need to “get what’s mine” and open to what is present to give, receive, and emerge?
In general, how we operate in the world is grounded in our fundamental understandings of how the world works. So, if one of the ways we understand our world is that we know we are alone and must compete for what we have, we are likely living through the lens of incomplete science. What opens up for us when we consider other possibilities?
Exploring Unexpected Connection
This is a fascinating Ted Talk about restoring grasslands by working with the ecology and its unexpected relationships, instead of assuming a simple competition model. This is about the balance of a healthy ecosystem, with species naturally supporting the health of the whole through their presence. What he offers here is surprising and simply inspiring for turning desertification around and reducing the carbon crisis.
Most of us live most of our lives totally encapsulated in the human world – the world of digital information, thoughts, conversations, indoor spaces, and urban landscapes. There is growing concern about how all of this impacts our lives and health. Simply going for a walk alone or silently without headphones can encourage us to turn our focus to the natural world and begin to feel the relationship we already have with the place we live and the life that surrounds us.