Daoism, an ancient Chinese religion and set of philosophical beliefs, believes people achieve virtue and integrity by following The Way, or dao. Dao is also the basis of all living things.
Estrangement from the dao occurs, when people 'get caught up with the relentless pursuit of goals, values, knowledge and self centred satisfaction.' For example, engineers exploit nature by extracting minerals from beneath the earth's surface, and the travel industry exploits nature by turning it into a commodity.
The Daoist urges us to connect with nature, to experience wildness, but not necessarily in a wilderness. 'In one's garden - underfoot, overhead and all around- wild creatures are doing what wild creatures do, and processes of generation and decay are at work.'
Daoists don't believe in taking a particular perspective on nature. They don't privilege a scientific perspective over that of a fisherman or a craftsman. Their stance towards nature is impartial. They don't prefer some things to others, just accept it all as a total inter-related system. If we think butterflies are beautiful, then we will find cockroaches repulsive. Daoists deny the whole notion of pest species!
Given such attitudes as humility and mindfulness, there's no room for heroic action, for activism, for saving the planet. Daoists think it hubris - incredible arrogance - to regard our role as healer of the planet. The Daoist way to engage with nature, according to Cooper, is to transform our selves.
|never too young to connect with nature|
I have no idea whether photographer extraordinaire, Rob Shepherd, has been consciously influenced by Daoism, but his latest blog post is very relevant to Cooper's book. 'Is a spider just something one uses as a subject because it has an interesting web in the light? Or can we discover our connection to the world of nature that holds that spider and then create photos that connect us all more deeply to nature?'
While Cooper doesn't come up with any practical ideas to help us connect to nature better, I can relate to ideas like the need for respectful engagement with the natural world.
But I can't agree with Daoism's refusal to accept the validity of environmental activism. Not in Australia today, when the federal government ,,,
- is applying to the World Heritage Committee to de-list part of the World Heritage Tasmanian forests, so they can be logged,
- is allowing the spoil from dredging to be dumped near the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef,
- plans to remove the Carbon Tax, and the Mining Tax
- has a climate change policy called Direct Action, that is vague and incomprehensible.
Still - the book's worth a read, for its unusual and interesting ideas. I don't believe there's one single way of being or doing. There are lots of authentic ways to connect with nature.
|communing with nature in Melbourne's Botanical Gardens|