It’s part of my mission as a teacher to encourage people to think about what they’re saying rather than simply to rattle off the gibberish that Mother Culture supplies as a guide for our understanding. The question here is based fundamentally on the idea that we are somehow NOT living in harmony with “nature.” [I put the term “nature” in quotes because it in itself is a term that makes nonsense of our situation, implying that there is an entity out there (nature) from which we are distinct.]
Even granting for a moment that there is such an entity as nature, the idea that we’re even CAPABLE of living in disharmony with it is nonsense. A man who throws himself off a thirty-story building is not living in disharmony with nature; he’s in harmony with it during every moment of his fall, including the moment when he pulps himself on the sidewalk below.
A man who deliberately inhales a poisonous gas is not living in disharmony with nature; on the contrary, he EXPECTS nature to take its course and make him dead. An industrialist who vents the same poisonous gas into the air is no different—except in his expectation. The fact that he doesn’t expect it to make him dead doesn’t change the fact that he has made the air deadly and that others will suffer because of it.
A man who runs a hose from the exhaust pipe into the interior of his car is not in disharmony with nature; he EXPECTS nature to take its course and make him dead. People who drive their cars are different only in their expectation; the exhaust from their cars is just as deadly in the open air, but they delude themselves into thinking it will do no harm.
Nature constantly “harmonizes” with ALL our actions—and this is exactly the hazard we face. We pour poison in the water and the fish die—what other harmony could possibly occur? We release fluorocarbons into the atmosphere, and the ozone layer begins to disintegrate—perfect harmony. If only we WERE separate from nature, then we COULD live in disharmony with it (and there would be no problem).
It’s precisely because we’re NOT separate from nature that it’s IMPOSSIBLE for us to live in with disharmony with it. Each of our actions, great or small, is answered with perfect harmony by nature (whether we DESIRE that answer or not). If we poison a lake, then it harmonizes with us by becoming poisoned. If it didn’t become poisoned, then THAT would be a disharmony (or, to put it another way, a miracle). If we pump fluorocarbons into the atmosphere, then the ozone layer harmonizes with us by disintegrating. If it didn’t disintegrate, then THAT would be a disharmony (or a miracle).
To say that it’s within our power to choose whether our lives will be in harmony with nature or not is equivalent to saying that it’s within our power to choose whether our actions will have effects or not. It’s precisely BECAUSE we live “in harmony with nature” that ALL our actions have effects (whether we desire those particular effects or not).
posted: 31 Oct 1999
updated: 31 Oct 1999