|Photo: Solveig Larsen|
Over the course of this year, amidst the coronavirus pandemic, there have been phrases such as “keeping us safe,” “it’s for safety reasons,” or similar spread around.
This blogpost is not about the rights or wrongs of the response to coronavirus; in fact, it won’t even use the word again.
However, the concerns over safety raise important questions related to our, primarily western, approach to how we live in the world.
We have traded in our security for safety.
What do I mean by that? Aren’t security and safety the same thing? No, they’re not. Let’s start back a bit.
Western-styled culture began to disconnect from nature some 10–12,000 years ago, increasing that disconnect significantly since the Industrial Revolution just 200-250 years ago.
As we moved steadily further and further from our natural home, two human responses came with that, both fuelling and being fuelled by the disconnect.
One is a fear of nature. Nature became a dark, wild, terrifying place. The other was our desire for control. Nature was to be tamed, controlled, and exploited.
The two responses are the flip side of each other. Fear of nature means we must tame and control nature. A tamed nature suggests it is something to be feared in case it becomes un-tamed.
Because we removed ourselves from nature we had to protect ourselves from this wild, un-tamed, and terrifying locale. We developed a “cotton-wool” approach (especially during the latter half of the twentieth century) to how we raise children, how we care for the elderly, and to life in general.
Ironically, the more we tried to keep ourselves safe from nature, the more we experienced harmful problems that stem from so-called “natural” sources.
Paradoxically, we become more secure when we let go of the desire to make ourselves safe. We become safer when we let go of the need to distance ourselves from nature. Etymologically, the word secure comes from two Latin words, se and cura, which together literally mean without care or setting concern aside.
When we recognise that we are not separate from nature, but are an intimate part of nature, then we no longer need to set up safety nets. We no longer fear nature.
When we reconnect with nature we become more secure as we settle into our natural niche without wishing to control or exploit nature.
We must let go the insane desire to improve the world, to fix nature. We must let go our egocentric, and anthropocentric, sense of superiority and separation.
If we continue to act as if we are separate from nature, if we continue to act out of fear of nature, and if we continue to exploit nature, then we will continually be trying, vainly, to find ways to keep ourselves safe.
If we are willing to let go and find our niche in nature, and willing to accept that we are no greater, nor lesser, than any other aspect of nature, then we will find we become naturally secure.
We must let go of wanting to be safe.
We can be secure.