In an egocentric world where people feel increasingly at odds with one another and Nature, the call to find ways to ‘connect’ and ‘reconnect’ has become very strong. Have you heard this call? If so, how do you respond to it? When you hear someone say, ‘we’re all interconnected,’ or ‘let’s reconnect with Nature,’ or ‘Nature is an interconnected web’ do you feel the urge to ‘get out there and do things together?’ Or does it in some way make you want to dive for cover or run for the hills to live a hermit-like existence? Does it fill you with hope for the future of humanity — as a solution to all our personal, social and environmental problems — or does it fill you with worry and doubt?
How do you feel about the way the Internet has influenced our lives? Now we humans all around the planet are interconnected via our telecommunications, computers and high-speed road, rail and air links, what costs and benefits do you perceive for the quality of our lives as individuals and groups? Do you feel empowered and more easily heard, or disempowered by the noise of billions clamouring for attention while relatively few are positioned to monopolize the air waves? Do you recognise the vulnerability of networks to internal spread of damaging influences, such as viruses and malevolence, as well as beneficial ones? What do the terms ‘globalisation’ and ‘totalitarianism’ mean to you?
I recognise both the value of ‘connecting with others’ and its limitations. As a naturalist, familiar with both the individual and collective organization of natural life forms and communities, I understand the ecological principle of interrelationship. Likewise, I recognise the vitality of degenerative as well as regenerative processes in evolutionary innovation and sustainability. So, I can ‘hear’ and appreciate the call for interconnection, while I am aware that it brings dangers as well as hope and that taking it too far can be a serious impediment to and distraction from responding to a much more profound need. This need is no less than the need for love in life.
To understand why the call for connection is both understandable and problematic, we need to recognise this call as a symptom of — NOT a remedy for — what has gone wrong in our relationships with one another and with our natural neighbourhood. It arises from an attitude of mind that isolates self- or group-identity from neighbourhood by divorcing ‘subject’ from ‘object’. This attitude is in its turn the result of an abstract-literal perception of reality in which we see boundaries only from the outside. We hence envisage natural boundaries and space to be barriers to communication, when in reality they serve to contain, channel and permit natural energy flow. Natural boundaries are inter-relational presences, places of in-betweenness that serve to distinguish one locality from another both as containers and conduits. Natural space is a ubiquitous, frictionless presence that freely permits movement.