Inspiration

Photo by Rose @Washington D.C. 2016

In HONOR OF ALL LIFE
&
ALL Sentient LIVING BEINGS

past, present, and future

“Allow nature’s peace to flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.”
– John Muir

part 1: The role of globalization

Globalization has been defined “as the compression of the world in the political and socio-economic realms and the amplification of consciousness on a humanitarian scale.” [1] With the accelerated globalization relentlessly unfolding into the future, we need to see that as a natural evolutionary process with unnatural planetary consequences in the Anthropocene era. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. once addressed in The World House that “nothing could be more tragic than for men to live in these revolutionary times and fail to achieve the new attitudes and the new mental outlooks that the new situation demands.” It is evident that the revolutionary times have never ended unless “all over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born.” [2] He added that: 

  • Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. [3]

This reflected in the writing of AleandrTommasi that “the transformation of consciousness, if on the one hand, it elevates the human being to spiritual research, on the other hand, it causes Man to participate more in his environment in which all beings are contained and where, subject to the same universal reality, they constitute a fraternity.” [4] As Jason M. Wirth asserted that “the intercultural turn is all the more needful in a time facing the revival and institutionalization of racialist and nationalist ideologies. It is, moreover, needful within the Western academic discipline of philosophy that is complicit with racism and nationalism insofar as it excludes, ignores, and trivializes the philosophizing and reasoning occurring—in the past and the present—across the globe in places such as Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, as well as East Asia.” [5] However, today’s challenges are not confined by geographical boundaries, and the ideologies can be penetrated by the control of information through the byproducts of institutionalization and specialization. Jon Kabat-Zinn pointed out that, 

  • If we are indeed continually learning, then, painful and difficult as it may sometimes be, and however much by fits and starts, ultimately we will be compelled by experience to look at and transcend the boundaries of our own tacit assumptions— often a product of our professional training, in addition to the conditioning we are entrained into from early childhood—and the patterns of perception and thought we fall into so easily because of familiarity and comfort, and because they work so well in certain circumstances. [6]

Our habitual thought patterns create the limiting beliefs, default fight-flight-freeze, implicit biases, and mental models that delude our true sense of being of what made us comes alive. The fragmentation of perception challenges us to look deeper into our approaches to knowledge production – how science research is being shaped, transmuted and conducted by biological and cultural reductionism that for example, intentionally taken the indigenous or local knowledge out of their wider ecological contexts (e.g. the importance of indigenous plant‐based knowledge as medicines and food). Not least, we need to understand this nexus between humans and their environment through multiple disciplinary lenses and time scales, which “complements the curative, biomedical, molecular approach to health” in addressing the research and information challenges with a focus on social and environmental drivers of ill health. [7] This entails not only ways of being, thinking and knowing that are informed by centuries of lived experience and culture, but also ignites a sense of authenticity that involves deep listening and joint internal reflection, and external engagement.

A cross-hybrid learning and interdisciplinary understanding of the problem is the key to elevating the space of not knowing how to take root, be nurtured, thrive, and flourish now and into the future that serves people, places, and the planet. [8] This also implies “an awareness of the connectedness of things” defined by Zena Zumeta and an “interconnectedness and interrelationship with all life,” with “no separation between the people and the land,” as described by Cyndy Baskin. [9] From the “holistic spirituality” viewpoint, “humans (as well as animals, plants, and so on) cannot be understood as separate from one another or from “nature.” [10] In brief, as Alan Watts noted, there are not “organisms” and a separate “environment” but an “organism-environment” that operates as a single field for mutually supportive ecosystems. [11]

In light of the global interconnectivity and interdependence between humans and the environments, it is important to recognize an integrated understanding of humanity in the Earth system dynamics, which interplayed with the planetary boundaries across climate change, biogeochemical (nitrogen and phos-phorus) flows, land-system change, freshwater use, aerosol loading, ozone depletion, ocean acidification, loss of biosphere integrity, including functional and genetic biodiversity, and introduction of novel entities, such as toxic chemicals and plastics. Each Earth system interacts with the others from the global “safe operating space” to the “zone of uncertainty”. For instance, humanity caused land-use changes to transgress the safe operating space, which entering the “zone of uncertainty” can have major impacts on other boundaries, such as the biosphere, the oceans and cryosphere, freshwater, biodiversity and biochemical cycles. These interactions in return would push Earth systems further from the safe operating space, which weakens the productivity of land systems and as major threats to the stability of the climate and Earth systems. [12] According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “we must produce at least 60% more food to meet global nutritional needs from existing land with reduced environmental impacts by the year 2050 to deliver economic and ecologically sustainable food production.” [13] To safeguard global food security, urgent action is needed to address the loss of biodiversity that feeds the world as demonstrated by the 2020 Living Planet Report on Bending the curve of biodiversity loss. 

Moreover, the Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII), which is used in the Planetary Boundaries framework as an indicator of biosphere integrity shows that the global average originally presents biodiversity within each ecoregion is already dangerously compromised (79%) and continues to fall and below the proposed lower safe limit 90%. Across the terrestrial ecological communities, agri-food production systems are the primary force behind the transgression of the Planetary Boundaries and as one of the largest threats to biodiversity conservation, these interlinked challenges can aggravate and in turn, has detrimental impacts on planetary health as defined by the Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission “the health of human civilization and the state of the natural systems on which it depends.” [14] Thus, it requires a “systems of systems” approach for the health of people and the planet in order to tackle the complex interrelationships among species and environments.

The concept of interbeing is explained by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, as Interdependent Co-Arising or Dependent Co-Arising or Dependent Origination which also suggested the dynamic relationships between the roots of motivation, afflictions and sufferings, and the interaction of the twelve links in two-dimensional cause and effect: (1) Ignorance (2) Karmic formations (mental impressions) (3) Consciousness (4) Name-and-form (mind and body) (5) Six sense bases (6) Contact (7) Feeling (8) Craving (9) Grasping (10) Becoming (karmic force) (11) Rebirth (12) Aging and death. [15]  This further illustrated by Jon Kabat-Zinn that the root causes of widespread suffering can be in the forms of (1) greed; (2) fear and aversion, and the disdain, enmity, and vilifying that frequently accompany them, including the racial/ethnic dehumanizing phenomenon of “othering”; (3) delusion, namely, mistaking appearance for reality; and (4) the toxicity, ignorance, and blindness that arise from ignoring intrinsic human values such as kindness and compassion, and the humanity in others. [16] 

And further demonstrated by Thich Nhat Hanh: 

  • Everything in the cosmos is the object of our perception, and, as such, it does not exist only outside of us but also within us. If we look deeply at the bud on the tree, we will see its nature. It may be very small, but it is also like the earth, because the leaf in the bud will become part of the earth. If we see the truth of one thing in the cosmos, we see the nature of the cosmos. Because of our mindfulness, our deep looking, the nature of the cosmos will reveal itself. It is not a matter of imposing our ideas on the nature of the cosmos. [17]

As Thich Nhat Hanh noted, the whole cosmos is our body, and we are also the body of the entire cosmos that constantly communicate with nature and ecology as the embodiment of the whole cosmology. This interrelationship with each other and with the natural world is the way of being. Mindfulness-supported transformation would provide us perspective beyond “a narrow bandwidth of consciousness that is possessed by discrete informational details (e.g., think of all the to-do lists we anxiously create and review everyday) that are programmed into reified identity/egoic structures created in the service of its own individual survival and welfare.” [18] This is when the non-ordinary consciousness needs to take place. Instead of putting the egoic consciousness at work, we need to cultivate more embodied, dynamically relational, holistic, ecological, and process-oriented approaches to tackle the way we frame and act on environmental problems. [19]

In Buddhism, a human being is made up of body and mind in the form of Five Aggregates—form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. The Five Aggregates contain everything—both inside us and outside of us, in nature and in society. We are the environments that are reflected by the co-existing presence of life, and the environments are within ourselves through both living and non-living beings, “with the awareness that Earth and all beings are interconnected and indivisible as a single entity, and cultivation of the insight that one’s consciousness is also the consciousness of the Earth.” [20] Thich Nhat Hanh extended the perspective of the evolution of organisms by emphasizing the role of the self-regulatory system: 

We have been talking about the environment as something different from us, but we are the environment. The non-human elements are our environments and we are the environment of non-human elements. So we are one with the environment, we are the environment, we are the Earth. The Earth has the capacity to restore balance. Sometimes many, many species have to disappear in order for the balance to be restored. [21]

The Club of Budapest addressed Our Manifesto on the Spirit of Planetary Consciousness “as the knowledge of the mutual interdependence and essential unity of mankind, and the conscious adoption of the ethics and of the ethos that this entails.” It is through the midst of human revolution, another vibration of the being, another awareness in transforming ourselves as ways to better contribute to the “transformation of spaceship Earth on which we are all passengers through the voyage of life.” 

The equilibrium of consciousness between projecting oneself externally and internally is a way of training consciousness in its philosophical and existential integrity that provides us with invigorating energy to become more expanded, unified, planetary, illuminated consciousness. [22] In brief, learning about the self is a fundamental shift in the process of co-evolving consciousness in times of globalization. As human beings’ relationship with faith, what has changed is how we relate to each other through the community’s perceived needs, given the growing fabrication in today’s workforce and our disconnected and transient society. The urgency of the challenge facing humanity today catalyzes us to reset our relationship with nature. As the World Wide Fund for Nature asserted that “The future is always uncertain, but perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic will spur us on to embrace this unexpected opportunity and revolutionize how we take care of our home.” [23] And perhaps one of the pressing questions we all face is that “can we reach biosphere consciousness and global empathy in time to avert planetary collapse?” [24] Maybe this time we can all re-ignite the innate capacity to be aligned with the Spirit of Planetary Consciousness in relation:

TO BE AWARE THAT THERE IS ONLY ONE RACE

THE HUMAN RACE

TO BE AWARE THAT THERE IS ONLY ONE LANGUAGE

THE LANGUAGE OF THE HEART

TO BE AWARE THAT THERE IS ONLY ONE RELIGION

THE RELIGION OF LOVE [25]

Reference

[1] White, Stephen R. “Multicultural Visions of Globalization: Constructing Educational Perspectives From the East and the West.” Interchange (Toronto. 1984) 39, no. 1 (2008): 95-117.

[2] King, Martin Luther. Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? 1st ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.

[3] King, Martin Luther, Carson, Clayborne, and Holloran, Peter. A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Intellectual Properties Management in Association with Warner Books, 1998.

[4] Tommasi, Aleandr. “Planetary Consciousness: From Vision to Practice.” World Futures 54, no. 4 (1999): 287-96.

[5] Wirth, Jason M. “Nelson, Eric S., Chinese and Buddhist Philosophy in Early Twentieth-Century German Thought.” Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 18, no. 4 (2019): 647-50.

[6] Kabat-Zinn, Jon. “You Can’t Get There from Here.” Mindfulness 10, no. 5 (2019): 972-78.

[7] Whitmee, Sarah, Dr, Haines, Andy, Prof, Beyrer, Chris, Prof, Boltz, Frederick, PhD, Capon, Anthony G, Prof, De Souza Dias, Braulio Ferreira, PhD, Ezeh, Alex, PhD, Frumkin, Howard, MD, Gong, Peng, Prof, Head, Peter, BSc, Horton, Richard, FMedSci, Mace, Georgina M, Prof, Marten, Robert, MPH, Myers, Samuel S, MD, Nishtar, Sania, PhD, Osofsky, Steven A, DVM, Pattanayak, Subhrendu K, Prof, Pongsiri, Montira J, PhD, Romanelli, Cristina, MSc, Soucat, Agnes, PhD, Vega, Jeanette, MD, and Yach, Derek, MBChB. “Safeguarding Human Health in the Anthropocene Epoch: Report of The Rockefeller Foundation– Lancet Commission on Planetary Health.” The Lancet (British Edition) 386, no. 10007 (2015): 1973-2028.

[8] Wamsler, Christine. “Mind the Gap: The Role of Mindfulness in Adapting to Increasing Risk and Climate Change.” Sustainability Science 13, no. 4 (2018): 1121-135.

[9] Sharp, Dustin N. “Prickles and Goo: Human Rights and Spirituality.” Journal of Human Rights 20, no. 1 (2021): 36-51.

[10] Sharp, Dustin N. “Prickles and Goo: Human Rights and Spirituality.” Journal of Human Rights 20, no. 1 (2021): 36-51.

[11] Sharp, Dustin N. “Prickles and Goo: Human Rights and Spirituality.” Journal of Human Rights 20, no. 1 (2021): 36-51.

[12] Lade, Steven J, Steffen, Will, Vries, De, Wim, Carpenter, Stephen R, Donges, Jonathan F, Gerten, Dieter, Hoff, Holger, Newbold, Tim, Richardson, Katherine, and Rockström, Johan. “Human Impacts on Planetary Boundaries Amplified by Earth System Interactions.” Nature Sustainability 3, no. 2 (2020): 119-28.

[13] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2017. The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

[14] R E A Almond, M Grooten, and T Petersen. “REPORTS: Living Planet Report 2020 – Bending the Curve of Biodiversity Loss.” Natural Resources & Environment 35, no. 3 (2021): 62.

[15] Lim, Hui. “Environmental Revolution in Contemporary Buddhism: The Interbeing of Individual and Collective Consciousness in Ecology.” Religions (Basel, Switzerland) 10, no. 2 (2019): 120.

[16] Kabat-Zinn, Jon. “Too Early to Tell: The Potential Impact and Challenges—Ethical and Otherwise—Inherent in the Mainstreaming of Dharma in an Increasingly Dystopian World.” Mindfulness 8, no. 5 (2017): 1125-135.

[17] Lim, Hui. “Environmental Revolution in Contemporary Buddhism: The Interbeing of Individual and Collective Consciousness in Ecology.” Religions (Basel, Switzerland) 10, no. 2 (2019): 120.

[18] Bai, Heesoon, Cohen, Avraham, Miyakawa, Muga, and Falkenberg, Thomas. “Mindfulness for Adulting.” Learning (Abingdon (England)) 4, no. 1 (2018): 12-28.

[19] Bai, Heesoon, Cohen, Avraham, Miyakawa, Muga, and Falkenberg, Thomas. “Mindfulness for Adulting.” Learning (Abingdon (England)) 4, no. 1 (2018): 12-28.

[20] Lim, Hui. “Environmental Revolution in Contemporary Buddhism: The Interbeing of Individual and Collective Consciousness in Ecology.” Religions (Basel, Switzerland) 10, no. 2 (2019): 120.

[21] Lim, Hui. “Environmental Revolution in Contemporary Buddhism: The Interbeing of Individual and Collective Consciousness in Ecology.” Religions (Basel, Switzerland) 10, no. 2 (2019): 120.

[22] Tommasi, Aleandr. “Planetary Consciousness: From Vision to Practice.” World Futures 54, no. 4 (1999): 287-96.

[23] R E A Almond, M Grooten, and T Petersen. “REPORTS: Living Planet Report 2020 – Bending the Curve of Biodiversity Loss.” Natural Resources & Environment 35, no. 3 (2021): 62.

[24] Cooper, David Mark. “The Future of Ministry and the Church.” The Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling 70, no. 4 (2016): 281-84.

[25] Tommasi, Aleandr. “Planetary Consciousness: From Vision to Practice.” World Futures 54, no. 4 (1999): 287-96.

Depicted on the cover of Art in Washington and Its Afro-American Presence: 1940-1970 by Keith Morrison (1985) for the Washington Project for the Arts is another painting by Alma Thomas titled Circle of Flowers, 1969 attributed to the collection of Delilah Pierce, a renowned Washington educator, artist and collector. This work was acquired by Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas.

Alma Thomas (American, 1891-1978)

Nature’s Red Impressions, 1968
Acrylic on canvas
GW Collection P.68.10, Gift of the Artist, 1968

Alma Thomas arrived in Washington D.C. with her family in 1907. They moved into a house at 1530 15th Street, NW, where she would live and work until her death. Today the residence is included on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1924, she became the first black woman to receive a B.S. degree in Fine Arts from Howard University. She taught art at Shaw Junior High School from 1924-1960. It was not until her retirement from teaching that she was able to devote herself entirely to her own painting. Thomas is best known for her mosaic-like compositions of scintillating patches of pure color applied over the surface of the canvas, and her work is often related to the art of the Washington Color School. Nature’s Red Impressions is typical of her fully-developed style, with its areas of red, yellow, green and blue organized into vertical stripe formations. She said that sunlight, flowers, leaves and vistas from airplanes were the basis for her abstract compositions of dancing color and light. Thomas’s importance as an American artist was fully recognized with her one-person exhibition at the Whitney Museum of Art, New York, in 1972, as well as with retrospectives at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Header photo by Rose @GW The Textile Museum, Washington D.C. 2016