As I begin to put together the year-long offerings of audio meditations on my website, I’ve been thinking about the focus for the coming year. Lately, I’ve had a deepening awareness of the importance of experiencing all the other life on this beautiful planet as “earth-kin”. We are all related, all children of the same mother planet, and many of us humans have been taught that we are somehow superior or “more evolved” than our other earth-kin.
I recently read a book, “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?”, by Frans de Waal, that addresses this humancentric bias. De Waal offers many examples of how our research on other earth-kin has tended to orient to human assumptions and human ways of doing things. One of my favorite examples had to do with making a mark on an elephant’s face or head and then having this earth-kin look in a mirror to see if he or she recognized themselves. They didn’t and someone realized that the problem wasn’t that elephants can’t recognize themselves but rather that the mirrors weren’t elephant sized. Once large enough mirrors were provided, the elephants immediately recognized that something was on their face and responded appropriately.
Another example had to do with research on gibbons, where researchers decided that they weren’t as intelligent as other primates because they couldn’t do a particular task that required them to use their hands in a certain way. A young researcher noticed that the task was oriented to human hands and not to the way that gibbons use theirs. When the experiment was retooled to reflect gibbon digits and manipulation, not surprisingly they performed as well as any other primate.
It can be both surprising and startling to know that slime mold does very well solving the challenge of a maze, better and faster than some other kinds of earth-kin. It can also be surprising to know that some species chose to evolve toward more complexity while others chose to evolve into less complexity, each and all having their own style of measurable intelligence. Here’s a link to a quick video about slime mold moving through a maze and also creating a complex network of connections that match the design of the Tokyo rail system. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyzT5b0tNtkRead More “822nd Week: Honoring Our Earth-Kin”
Sitting in Central Park the other day—one of my first leisurely days in the park during this new season of lush green—I found myself doing a lot of smiling. Often, I sit on a bench under a large tree near a walkway that a number of people use, even early in the morning. On this particular day, Read More “Week 635: Sharing Smiles”
It’s a holiday weekend and I spent a bit of time on Facebook this morning. Reading about the plight of immigrant families being separated at the U.S. border and all the other unfortunate developments arising in so many different ways, I found myself again wondering how to cultivate hope and hold a sense that things can be better. Then I remembered a documentary I recently watched that ended up giving me some unanticipated optimism. It’s a talk given by Jeremy Rifkin, an economic and social theorist. It’s called “The Third Industrial Revolution” and, even though it begins with examples of our dire environmental crisis, it ends on hopeful notes of what is emerging already within the awareness of millennials around the world. Even with all the challenges and misuses, the Internet has created a more directly connected experience amongst young people in many countries and that is already creating change in how they think about and treat one another.
For this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to watch the documentary and notice what it touches in you. Your experience may be different from my own, and it may not bring a hopeful sense to you. Whatever arises when you have watched it all the way through, notice what it may prompt you to do. We are all in this together and our individual and collective actions matter. For me, having a sense of possibility, a sense that there may be solutions to what we see happening in the world today, is a great gift. I hope it is for you, too. Here’s the link to the documentary: Read More “715th Week: Cultivating Hope”
During the process of putting together my breakfast smoothie for tomorrow morning this evening, I suddenly noticed that I had the face of a cat in my face, paws of more than one cat all over the kitchen counters. I’m pretty strict about cats not being involved directly in my food preparation, but the person who stays with them when I’m out of town clearly has different rules than I do.
What struck me this evening was the depth of humor I inevitably touch into when the cats (I live with three of them) show up when I don’t expect them. The minute I realized that I had a cat’s head and paws in my immediate awareness, I noticed that I was spontaneously laughing and snuggling fur.
This got me to thinking about the benefits of cultivating a sense of humor over life’s inevitable glitches and moments of non-traumatic surprise. So many moments in any given day don’t go how we expect or want them to go. That doesn’t mean, though, that they can’t be moments of delight or fun.Read More “766th Week: Cultivating a Sense of Humor”