I honestly believe that Humanity will only find a way to solve the current climate and ecological crisis and to thrive on this Planet, alongside Nature, when it rediscovers its own spiritual essence and that of everything that exists in this Universe. In other words, Humanity will only find a way to prosper in balance with the Earth’s needs and resources when it rediscovers its own spirituality and when it reconnects with the Sacred.
I heard Sir David Attenborough, the famous British natural historian, say that he believes Humanity will only commit to saving this Planet when it truly learns how to love it – and that we can only love Nature when we know it. But how can we know, and then love, that which we are not willing to accept? Right now, our vision is wrong. We look at Earth’s constitutive elements and we see only resources and things to use, exploit and consume for our own pleasure. We see Nature as something that is at our disposal, almost as if it exists merely to serve our needs and desires. Our collective imagination is so biased that we even treat other living beings, other animals and plants who share life on Earth with us, as objects or commodities. This is clearly the wrong world-picture and the greatest illusion we have fallen into, one brought about by the scientific and technological revolution (and by sociopolitical systems such as capitalism and ideologies such as liberalism and humanism) that put humans on a pedestal and made them believe they are the greatest species on this Planet, entitled to everything due to their undeniable superiority. This very belief may well be the one that ultimately drives us to our own extinction… Because, in believing that we are above everything and everyone else and that we are in control of Nature, we forgot the number one rule in the Universe.
Everything around us is interconnected and therefore interdependent. When we imagine humans’ standing in the world, we usually conceive of a pyramid where we are at “the top of the food chain”. However, in reality we are only one element among billions, part of a circle where matter and energy are constantly flowing among material and immaterial elements. We might have colonised and dominated much of the Planet, but ultimately this big endeavour has only led to an unsustainable way of a life and to a dangerous loss of balance that is threatening life on Earth and the very survival of our own kind. In our recent discovery (yes, because in natural history, it is very recent) of science and technology, we – in the West especially, and transferring these beliefs and knowledges to the rest of the world through globalization – have increasingly tried to give scientific and mechanistic answers to every natural process that takes place around and inside us. We try to find a “scientific” or a “technical” explanation for everything, and in doing so we lost sight of the bigger picture. In our attempt to be all-knowing and omnipotent, we forgot that there are many things science can actually not explain. This is the domain of spirituality, of the unseen, of the Sacred. This is the domain of energy instead of matter. This is the domain of humility, selflessness, empathy and compassion. That is why I honestly believe that Humanity will only find a way to solve the climate and ecological crisis and to thrive on this Planet, alongside Nature, when the balance between science and spirituality is restored.
When I was a child, I always believed in magic. I read stories, myths and legends, and I believed in dragons, fairies and elves. I believed in the power of the elements, in spirits and ancient mysteries. I had an open mind and I found that the world was much more exciting and fascinating if magic was real. Now that I am older, I discovered that I was not wrong. Unlike society keeps trying to tell us, that magic does not exist, that extraordinary phenomenona are not in fact real, I discovered that magic does exist. It is not perhaps in the shape of dragons, fairies or elves. But it is present in the amazing mysteries that connect life between species; that produce so many things that we cannot truly explain. It is the sort of magic you feel when you are walking down a valley and you feel the rocks around you, the same rocks that have existed on that very spot for such an incredible amount of time, indescribably vibrant and alive. How much have they already lived through? How much have they already witnessed, even if blind to what was happening around them? Yet, it seems undeniable that they are alive… This is the realm of spirituality, where we must accept that we don’t know all the answers and we must be open to see, hear and feel, in order to learn more.
Roald Dahl wrote a sentence that has been a guiding principle for me all my life. ‘Only those who believe in magic will ever find it‘. This, for me, is the answer to why so many people live unfulfilled lives, where they believe they know everything because everything is scientifically or technologically explained – but they are actually missing so, so much, because they are not open to accept what they might not know how to explain… at first sight. The trick is this: you must believe it so you are then able to find it. I sometimes think that this is some sort of test of faith on the part of the Universe or our ultimate source of life, whatever it may be. In some ways, I think it is testing us by asking: “Are you ready to put your faith in me, to believe in all my potential?”. If you depart from a position of scepticism, telling yourself that all extraordinary phenomena are just false, dubious or can otherwise be explained by science or technology, you will not really see the mystery. You will not, because you’re looking at it the wrong way. In your mind, you’re already dismissing the spiritual phenomenon by not believing it from the start. Instead, if you believe that these things are possible, if you believe that they can and do happen… Then you will begin to see them.
I feel this clearer than ever with forests – particularly with trees. Not long ago, I went to Belgium on a trip and I had the immense luck and pleasure of going for a walk in the woods with three donkeys. It was just me, two other women and three donkeys walking with us, deep into the forest. Throughout all the walk, as soon as I focused on everything around me, I strongly felt I was constantly being watched. I would look around and not see anything, but I could clearly feel that tingling sensation of when you are being watched. This feeling, however, was non-threatening. It was actually very pleasant and alluring. I could feel a sort of childlike curiosity from the forest around me, as the trees and its hidden beings were clearly wondering who we were and what we were doing there. But, as they felt that we were peacefully strolling along the trail and had not the slightest intention to hurt them, as they felt that our presence was harmless and our intentions positive, their response to us was very peaceful as well. I feel it too whenever I go for a walk in my local forest, which I have been doing for all my life (since I was a baby in my mothers’ arms), and almost every week, which means that I know this forest very, very well. I like to play and say that these trees know me since I was a baby, and that they always seem happy to see me. What I do know is that I can clearly feel them communicating with each other when I walk past them. It may just be the touch of the wind in their leaves… But it can also be a lot more. Scientists are now beginning to admit that there is an immensity of things we still don’t know about plants, and that they may very well be much more complex beings than we’ve ever thought. This doesn’t surprise me.
How can we expect to realise the full extension of life when we imprison ourselves in cities and metropolises, places where Nature is so restrained that it becomes part of a tale in a book or a film? How can we expect to see, hear and feel the endless connections and subtle communications between thousands of beings that take place everyday, all the time, in a mountain or a forest, a savannah or any other type of ecosystem? As we moved further away from Nature we moved further away from ourselves and from each other, and saying this will never get old. There are sites where we can rediscover the Sacred, but these are not in cities, not in villages, not in places filled with humans and their artificial constructions… You need to get away from the crowd to discover yourself and what is all around you, that which science and technology are yet far from understanding. And then, if you open your heart to the possibility of discovering the unknown, if you open your mind to the possibility of seeing, hearing and feeling that which society tells you cannot be real… Then you might begin to understand the true nature and beauty of this world.