For those of you who prefer a meditation with images, here’s our YouTube version of this meditation:
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”
As I did some exercise in Central Park the other day, I came to a tree that I wanted to greet, so I put my hand on it and kind of leaned in and thanked the tree for being such an important presence in my life. I also asked the tree to extend my appreciation to all the other trees in the park. Together, they create an environment in which we humans can find a degree of comfort and inspiration. As I talked with the tree, a woman walked by and said, “I do that, too!” As I turned to face her, she said it again and we both commented on how lucky we are to have the park as a living part of our urban lives.
Continuing on, I noticed how many other elements of the park speak to me and offer a sense of belonging to something so much more than my individual human self. I noticed, and have as park friends, some of the large boulders that are found throughout Central Park. I also noted and appreciated, as I always do, the earth under my feet, this precious earth. Then, there are the squirrels, hawks, pigeons, rats, and other wildlife who inhabit the park and who appear here and there as I walk along. No insects to honor at this time of year, but they’ll be back come Spring.Read More “825th Week: Offering Appreciation to Nature”
Just before the election, I had an unexpected—and unusual for me—interaction with someone on Facebook that reflected something we’ve all seen emerge over time. It seems that differences of opinion are now taken as attacks. Read More “Week 653: Speaking with Respect”