As cultural ideas evolved since about 1637, many people have come to assume that only humans, and perhaps some animals are alive. There is an assumption that trees or plants or some animals are just “things”. You may have heard of some of these “isms”: dualism, mechanism, reductionism, materialism, …
What about us modern humans? Our thinking has probably been run by a variety of current cultural assumptions
- that things are things and we are separate
- that these things operate as mechanisms that are predictable
- that humans can control Nature, are superior to Nature, and can somehow dominate Nature.
All patently untrue.
Humanity is finding that out the hard way now — we are suffering the consequences of having polluted our homes and made our human-centric changes to the planet this last 100 years or so.
But, back to re-enchantment.
What I mean by “Enchantment” here does not mean magic or fairy-stories. It means us—each of us—conferring aliveness to what we assumed to be not-alive.
So, to be re-enchanted is to perceive a tree or plant as alive. To believe that a mountain as a whole is alive. To have the idea that the ocean as a whole is alive. Insects: alive. Microorganisms: alive.
So I am not talking about animated characters with silly little faces, but I’m saying that all “things” are alive as Living Systems.
All this is supported by the new-science definition of a Living System. It’s in 3 parts:
- Living Systems operate in complex pattern of organization like an orchestra. They have interacting and interdependent parts and functions which work in feedback loops.
- Living systems undergo dynamic change and yet maintain a stable structure. For example, as an oak tree begins as an acorn and grows into a massive tree, so it has a stable structure while growth —dynamic changes—occur constantly.
- All living beings show intelligence or cognition. Not only do sunflowers follow the sun’s progress East to West during the day, but in the morning, they are waiting for the sun in the East again. That’s intelligent.
This is not human intelligence, which is the result of language and culture. "Cognition” is intelligence in the sense that a single celled organism in a Petri dish will go toward the food and away from the poison.
And I’m talking about the deep intelligence of Nature which knows how to grow, how to interact, and how to accomplish dynamic balance.
Living Beings produce bioenergy fields. For humans our largest energy field is produced by our hearts. It can be measured out to 5 feet away from the body. Plant and tree bioenergy fields also extend well outside of their physical bodies. So when we are near a tree or plant, both bioenergy fields overlap. In that overlapping zone of energy, information is shared and exchanged.
So even by the modern definition of living systems, indeed, all living Beings are alive. So we will go forward talking about “BEINGS” or “Living Beings.”
My use of the word “re-enchantment” says not only that all Beings are enchanted with life—ALL are alive—but that there is mystery in this existence. There is the unknown… and also the unknowable. That there is more to life than we can usually imagine. There is more to existence than the physical, tangible reality we walk through every day.
Luckily, little children are not burdened with all this intellectual weight. As long as their needs for love are met, they are light as a feather; they take themselves lightly. And they can play with physical reality unbound by “shoulds”. They connect with Nature because they are not yet enculturated with the idea that they can’t.
So they know that they can talk to the living Beings who are trees, and more than that—they hear, see, and feel trees and all of Nature calling out to them and talking to them.
Trees tell little children about their lives and what it is like to stand still in that place. They invite children to climb them for a mutual tactile experience. Plants ask children to “ring around” them, or pick off pieces of themselves for the fragrance. Bugs buzz about persistence. Birds chirp the freedom of flight. Even a fallen leaf says “Touch me.”
Connecting with Nature is a natural innate ability we all have. For us to hear trees’ messages, we adults don’t have to learn anything new… we have to forget some of what we already learned that made us into adults.