– Heartwood Path Waypoint 1.3 –
Understand Ecological Groundedness
One’s reactions to planetary predicaments ought not be based solely on blind optimism nor on blind pessimism—the two extremes that seem to color much of the public discourse. Some of those involved in the promotion of environmental solutions, for example, are what I call “boom-sters.” They argue that population growth and technological development are good for several reasons: 1) because people inevitably produce more than they consume; 2) because people are not bound by a carrying capacity of an ecosystem; 3) because people have the intelligence to improve their habitat by inventing technology; 4) because as yet unimaginable ingenuity will result in ecological solutions; and 5) because the free economic market will allow human products and human wellbeing to boom. Such a view, right or wrong, has a chance to become popular because it allows people to avoid the psychological discomforts that could accompany the other predominant view, that of the “doom-sters.” Those who adopt this “doom-ster” viewpoint tend to describe with fire and brimstone a “coming environmental hell in graphic detail” and scare their audience with “dreadful prophecies, then promise salvation through conversion to a new ecological worldview” (Winter and Koger, 2004, p. 19).
The “boom-sters” create hope (which is helpful unless it is blindly unrealistic) and the “doom-sters” create an urgency for action (which is good unless the gloom is so excessive it creates stultifying fear). Given our current environmental predicament, I feel we cannot afford the pessimism that tends to accompany the “doom-ster” perspective nor the naiveté (unfounded optimism) that tends to accompany the “boom-ster” perspective. I propose an alternate perspective –that of the “Hume-ster.”
A “Hume-ster” is supportive of the following contentions of Eighteenth Century philosopher David Hume regarding the psychological basis for human nature:
For these and other reasons, many of the theories and practices contained in this course, including the NatureConnect methodologies included at the end of each waypoint, are, intentionally and unintentionally, compatible with the writings of David Hume.
Those who engage in the HumaNatureConnect Activities throughout the Path, for example, are embodying Hume’s emphasis on the importance of direct sensation. I believe the element of attraction, so pivotal in all Heartwood Path HumanNatureConnect Activities, can be thought of as one of Hume’s “impressions”–– a conception that results from outer-world phenomena and are more passionate, lively, and forcible than a more feeble “idea” (Pratt) which arises after an inner world, mental reflection.
Through such inner reflections, ideas, and inner world impressions of outer world phenomena, one may consider that the world’s greatest need is the improvement of healthcare worldwide, or a more equitable distribution of food and water, or for improved education globally, or any of a number of actual, significant needs. For the purposes of this series of courses, let us for the moment determine that all of these needs are secondary to the primary need of environmental sustainability, for without a suitable and sustainable environment there cannot be any significant and enduring resolution of all of the other imaginable or verifiable needs.
Our destination, therefore, is an intersection of “happiness” and “the world’s greatest need--a “place” in your life that is at once metaphorical but also actually reachable. I call this place “Gladandgreen Junction.” Let us now break this name down into its three components because, in doing so, we will illustrate the purpose of following the Heartwood Path.
The first component is “Glad.” More than a temporary and trivial sense of joviality, the gladness we seek will be called “Triple A Happiness”--happiness that is authentic, abundant, and abiding. For happiness to be authentic, abundant, and abiding for our purposes here it has to have five components:
The second component in “Gladandgreen Junction” is “green.” By this I mean a healthy lifestyle, environmental sustainability, a healthy environment, and environmental protection.
The third component is “Junction.” We will be looking not for happiness alone, nor for environmental protection alone, but for the meeting and the binding of Triple A happiness and environmental protection.
In leading people to this “place”, the Heartwood Path leads to a fantastic sense of fulfillment that arises when a person comes to life more fully. “To find our calling,” writes philosopher Frederick Buechner, “is to find the intersection between our own deep gladness and the world's deep hunger” (Second Journey Website). This intersection is a “place” but not necessarily a physical location. It is a “place” that is really a sense of purpose, as in the sentence: “It is not my place to tell you what to do.” I borrow the phrasing of the key purpose of the Heartwood Path from a marvelous little book by Buechner called Wishful Thinking (1973). Under the heading of “Vocation,” Buechner writes;
“There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Superego, or Self-interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is this: the kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done” (Buechner, 1973, p. 95).
Except for the joy of tending to family and except for the joy remaining loyal to one’s own principles, I can think of no greater fulfillment than to find that place where you really get a kick out of your work, especially when that work is what really needs to be done for the world. All Heartwood Path Courses lead precisely to this highly charged and rewarding inner world “place” by taking you to your choice of attractive outer world places.
For reasons that will be made clear subsequently, almost all of these activities will occur in a real-world type of place that is not typically considered to be explicitly spiritual or explicitly transformational. Still, the kind of places I will be recommending––places out of doors, ranging from backyards or backwoods -- are perfectly well suited for your own hatching out. To be a good place for such personal transformation, a location will need to have all or some of the kinds of qualities intimated in the questions included in the following activity (Cope, 1999, 27-32).