Nature is the curriculum
For about 99.9999% of human history our enmeshment in nature was a simple fact of life. It was obvious to everyone. From as far back as we know, this has been a foundational aspect of all human teaching for most human cultures. It has been passed down from generation to generation. It has been elaborated into every origin story, myth and legend. It forms the basis for science.
It’s only recently that the nonsensical notion that humanity could be separate from nature has existed. Even today it remains ridiculous to all the longest surviving cultures on Earth. For most humans throughout history, considering whether we or not we are nature would be like considering whether the Sun is hot, or whether the oceans are wet.
Most of us reading this still intuitively sense this interconnectedness. But few of us are fortunate enough to live it as an everyday reality. How to explain this strange anomaly? We must reconsider what we have been taught, and how we have been taught it.
An inherent part of the process of education in industrialised society is to civilise out natural ways of being. Come inside. Sit in rows. Address your attention to the human things inside the room, rather than the world outside. Break down natural reality into discrete components. Ossify them in separate subjects, disciplines and theoretical concepts. Spend much of your childhood in sterile, office-like rooms.
This has been the model. It reflects and magnifies humanity's attempts to cut itself off from the wild life. We have shifted from hunting and gathering to controlling animals and plants in fields. We have blocked out the seasonal weather with our buildings. We have tried to banish nature from our cities and shopping malls.
It’s an ultimately futile, unsustainable attempt to escape reality. Today, we can see how this is manifesting.
We have made our species more and more self-referential. We tell ourselves that we have no myths, when that, in itself, is one of our most powerful. In fact, we've merely discarded myths with deep roots in natural relations, in favour of new myths without them. We live in artificial, stilted, partial stories that relate less and less to reality, to the world itself.
Most of us are very rarely exposed to wild nature. We choose pavement, lawn, if outside at all. We spend more and more time inhabiting two-dimensional screen worlds of our own devising, in which we are stripped of touch, taste and smell. Humanity, the great ape, increasingly only relates to itself.
But nature’s reality, like gravity, is a constant. It is everywhere. It waits for us, for as long as it takes us to literally come to our senses. It will bring us all, irresistibly, back down to Earth.
The greatest challenge facing humanity is how we hasten this return and make a soft landing. To do that we must educate thoroughly: with reality, with nature.
So what’s that like? It is not something we define or theorise about, it is something we explore together. It’s less about conclusions, and more about joyful conversations. It is not only about words, or even thoughts. It’s a full body experience, an emotional, even spiritual revelry.
We reinvigorate and reroot. We study the flick of each breeze on our skin. We test the crispness of dew on our tongue. We examine the tang of mud under our fingernails. We reflect all this in art, science, literature, craft and play - but holistically, as one.
We create time in our days to meet the world properly, as a living being. We encourage every one of us to relate to that being personally, in their own way. We humbly acknowledge and explore all the intricate relationships of natural reality together, as beings integral to it, adventuring in this life.
We’re working on the rehabilitation of humanity. It will take time, and work, but every step, by nature, is life affirming.