This week I have been resident at Schumacher College facilitating a course called 'Erotic Ecology'... An experience of 'doing' ecology through the skin. It is fascinating to combine the rational with the experiential, to offer people a glimpse into the total wonder and abandonment of the natural world in a way that truly touches them and their lives, and to make the scientific touch the personal.
The Universe keeps bringing me situations that make me go deeper into my inquiry of becoming more our 'selves' through 'other' - through our symbioses. At the same time I am reading 'Humankind' by Timothy Morton, as well as Andreas Weber's work (who is the main teacher of the course). A couple of weeks ago we had French philosopher Bruno Latour visit us at the College, and there we got into extremely interesting discussions about the 'networked self' - the self defined by other, biologically and also in contextual terms.
Andreas' current work revolves around the concept that 'ecos is eros'. Ecological and erotic relationships are of the same kind. That being alive is a yearning for otherness. Ecology now needs to be done 'through the skin' and 'through the senses' to reconnect to a wider, ecological self, which makes action to protect the living world a natural instinct, and not a cerebral response.
I really enjoyed the framing of this emerging field of inquiry as 'relational science'. I refer to my teaching at Schumacher as the 'science of relationships' - symbiosis, networks, stigmergy, emergence, collective intelligence. Andreas takes this into the personal realm and says literally 'I want to understand relating as desire for other. Yearning to touch 'otherness''. This was brought alive by experiential exercises we both facilitated in relating and reconnecting to ourselves, other and natural world.
How do we melt the barriers between us and the natural world?
The world is yearning to be met and touched by us, to be experienced through the skin and not just through the intellect. Suddenly the combination of science with art, dance, movement, metaphor and poetry becomes entirely necessary. There are some things and sensations that cannot be understood through thinking alone. What does it mean to be a story-telling, dancing, artist scientist?
The motivation to do this has a reciprocity to it: both for the planetary health, and for our own personal vibrance, health and well-being. As the planet's well-being increases, so do or personal well-beings. Do you agree? Are humans who are totally denied nature connection and connection to our wider human and non-human community liable to poor mental health? The studies are increasing, and you just need to Google 'forest bathing' to find the articles that correlate time in forests amongst trees with lower stress-related hormones.
Funnily enough, when I consider this I have an inner conflict. It's not too surprising seeing as I straddle worlds of ecology and technology, science and transformation. Maybe it is actually very possible to survive in a thrive in a totally nature and community barren context. Maybe it's true that emerging technologies of VR, AR, 360 video and others could seamlessly take the place of this thing we call Nature. Who am I to say otherwise? If studies emerge with evidence that supports this - that the technological can replace the natural in the well-being and connection in brings, then who are we to argue? But is there something that is not possible to quantify that is lost?
Waking up this morning at 6am to something I don't think I have ever witnessed: I was gifted the full chorus of birds welcoming in the day, singing all together in full blast. It didn't feel like a coincidence that the birds are surging to meet me in this place. The night before I woke up at 2am to hear the call of an owl, bright and clear in the nightly silence.
Now I travel to London to participate in a panel with senior scientists where I will be explaining my work around a need for 'Science with Humanity'. We'll see what comes of it!