Perspectives are subject to change from individual to individual. Discussing my life is a relativistic idea that is entirely dependent on the angle you approach it – do I discuss the changes over time through generations of my family? Do I discuss the influences of my childhood experiences? Or do I discuss the forms of life that existed long before humanity emerged in Earth’s history? If that’s not enough, our definitions of life are constantly being redefined and we are always learning about how complex life on Earth is. That being said, we can still explore our understandings and definitions of life and how it can serve to connect multiple perspectives.
When studying life, you may begin to appreciate the complexity of life that exists within organisms. The deeper you dig, you begin to see shared biological processes; whether it’s molecular similarities existing in unicellular bacteria shared with multicellular humans (like the enzymes that break down chemical compounds), the common repeating segments of nucleotides found in our genes and that of Protists, or behaviours existing in specific types of animals that provide more long-term care for offspring like that of homo sapiens (us).
Alas, even in our perception of the complexities of life, we still find ourselves relating it to how it connects with being human. We may fail to appreciate the perspectives of all aspects and parts of our universe. Spiritually, or creatively for some, we may consider the worldview of our air, the grass, an ocean; what is their story or narrative? Some of us may not be interested in that as it sounds too abstract, but the activity of challenging and considering multiple perspectives is paramount when approaching science. This approach lends itself to the idea of kinship with nature, and extending the idea of multiple ways of knowing and perceptions of nature to beyond the human experience. Some of us already do it for the non-human organisms we care for in our homes (examples being pets, like cats and dogs), but this idea seeks to extend this empathy to everything in nature: abiotic and biotic. It’s an ecocentric approach that places a value on everything in the natural environment – and even-so-far-as to use the phrase “natural environment” to be inclusive of the artificial creations of humanity.
Is this way of thinking right? We could argue, that competition and individualism is reflective of the idea of natural selection, and how survival of the fittest governs the changes of life over time; the strongest-suited to particular environment, in our case the strongest-suited to success in the Western world the environment is a class-based democratic, capitalist world (and success may be assessed in the form of wealth accumulation). This way of thinking could seek to keep us divided, or nepotistic. Yet I could instead argue the value cooperation and living harmoniously with nature has had on humans and our ancestors as a species over millennia. Having an attachment to, responsibility for, or sense of place and belonging in nature is a desire felt widely throughout many Canadian First Nations communities, and this kinship with nature was/is beneficial to success and happiness in certain contexts and environments. Even perspectives as a part of science were arrogant in nature and we can observe greater perspective and complexity as illustrated by Leroy Little Bear’s description of Blackfoot Metaphysics.
This isn’t meant to discredit the value of competition for promoting characteristics we’ve deemed valuable in society that may be realized through the sports we compete and choose to engage in. It’s a huge part of many of our experiences in the world today. These values are part of individuals within this broad idea of kinship and cooperation. Kinship and cooperation within our species places value on every thought and part of it.
It’s easy to think with this expansive definition of kinship that we are insignificant and, in a cosmic sense, we are, but your capacity to feel that emotion, and think that thought, is significant. What I do may hold little influence and value to the majority of humans, other organisms, and particles in nature. But my place in nature holds value for me, as it should for you – and through that lens of kinship holds value to the universe.
This post part 3 of a series of blog posts.