We explored the notion of purpose from the viewpoints of Abrahamic Religions, Eastern Philosophies, Early Sciences, Modern Sciences, Philosophy and Psychology in the last few blog posts in this series. Let’s now have a look at this notion from some of the Ecological viewpoints.
It’s May 2017. I got a call from the account manager from the company that manages my Mahogany plantation in the Ratnapura district of Sri Lanka. I have some bad news to share with you. What is it? I ask. One of your Mahogany plantations in Munihinkanda has got affected by the recent landslides. We have not been able to access the plantation yet as the authorities have restricted access to the plantations until they are able to confirm that it is secure. What is the extent of the damage? I ask. About ten acres of the plantation has slid down to the river below and we feel it includes one of your plots too. Interestingly I was calm as I heard this news, although the financial loss was going to be quite severe. As I digested this news my mind went to the time that a rubber plantation of a larger extent belonging to my father was destroyed due to a cyclone about 40 years ago. I remembered my involvement in the process of transporting the fallen trees to help my father recover at least a part of the losses. My mind wonders to the hundreds of lives lost due to this storm and thousands who have lost their livelihood as a result. Perhaps the reason for me to be emotionally unmoved by my financial loss could be because these are more severe than the personal financial loss I have incurred. I have watched with dismay so many natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunami’s, floods, landslides, forest fires etc. happening in various parts of the world. It seems like it is getting more and more intense.
My mind wonders to the documentary video ‘Journey of The Universe’, and the various conversations I have had with my PhD batch mates about how technological advancement and the selfish action taken by human beings is finally starting to make an impact on our planet. How ungrateful can we be? We allow the universe to develop our intellect and then we use that knowledge to destroy the very source of our knowledge. While planet earth needs to maintain a distance from the sun that is not too hot nor too cold for the survival of life, it is interesting that the temperature is maintained within the required narrow band, despite the 25% increase in the sun’s heat reaching planet earth over the past 4 billion years. The self-organising and self-regulating process of life has helped the earth maintain the required distance from the sun to maintain life-sustainable temperatures. We need ecological thinking to understand the world from this frame according to Fritjof Capra, as written in his book, ‘The Web of Life’ (Capra, 1996).
We seldom think about the earth itself in its distinctive aspects; we are enclosed so intimately within its fields and woodlands or lost amid the commercial frenzy of our cities. We do speak about nature, the world, creation, the environment, the universe, even when planet earth is foremost in our thoughts. Yet only in recent times we experienced the earth in its full spherical contours. The more we learn about earth, the more we see it as a privileged planet, the creation and the homeland of a multitude of living beings. Recently we have come to know the earth within the context of a more comprehensive knowledge of the universe itself (Berry, 2011). We hear climate scientist, sustainability activist and even world leaders – coming together at the world climate summit held in Davos in 2015 – talking about the need for ecological sustainability. We even hear Pope Francis advocating the importance of sustaining our climate, while some other world leaders feel it’s a hoax created for the advantage of some countries. There is divided opinion between scientist, where one half feels global warming create more and intense tropical storms, while the other half advocates otherwise. We hear about the damage to the ozone layer and global warming etc. Why does this aspect concern these scientist and activist so much?
Irrespective of the stance taken our action either destroys or tries to stop the destruction of planet earth. I believe that many who are conscious about the process of life and the damage humans are doing to ‘life’ and ‘planet earth’, are attempting to enhance the consciousness in more and more people, while there are others who does not respond to the danger because of a multitude of reasons such as being unaware, having selfish motives, inertia, political stance, power positions etc.
The question that comes up is, what is the role, responsibility and purpose of the various actors in this drama of life. My personal belief is that we are a part of the process of life and our responsibility is to contribute to the sustenance of life. And if we can find our unique purpose in this process and attempt to live purposefully, we can contribute to the process of life and as a result be in sync with the universe. According to my inquiry in to my life, I know that I am in sync with the universe when I make purposeful choices (and vise versa) and that results in peace of mind and a feeling of being of service to life.
I invite you to reflect on the question; what is my role, responsibility and purpose in the process of life? How can I be of service to me, to us and to them? I hope that the reflections on this post, the previous posts and the future posts in this series would help you get better clarity of your purpose.
Berry, T. (2011). The great work: Our way into the future. Crown.
Capra, F. (1996). The Web of Life: A New Synthesis of Mind and Matter. London: Flamingo, 11, 155-7.