“Nature is not mute; it is man who is deaf.” –Terence McKenna
In his book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcom Gladwell defined a tipping point as “a moment of critical mass, a threshold, a boiling point.” As it stands, we have over seven billion “little things that can make a big difference” walking around on this planet, each with the power to become a tiny tipping point of their own. Indeed, with the power to change the world. But, like Confucius said, “Those who move mountains begin by carrying away small stones.” This article will focus on the difference between the Ecocentric and Ego-centric perspective.
The ego-centric perspective is based upon self-bias on the micro level, one-right-way dogma on the cultural level, and human-bias on the macro level. This is the type of perspective that has been entrenched within the human condition, and the way it governs itself, for arguably the last two thousand years. Its method is simple but unhealthy: conquer, control, consume, destroy, and repeat.
It does this over and over again, on both micro (individual) and macro (cultural) levels, leaving nothing but burnt-out husks in its wake – be those husks people or land, it matters little to the all-consuming “mine, mine, mine” baby-whine of the egocentric machine. It suckles slowly, but it’s a slow meaningless death. In the end, this unsustainable perspective chokes on the world and then consumes itself. It’s inevitable. Nothing that consumes more than its environment can produce can sustain itself.
The ego-centric perspective is immature and adolescent, suffering from a plethora of insecurities, anxieties, and neurosis. Unfortunately, our society is grossly egocentric. It is built upon military aggression, the control and exploitation of nature’s resources, and an entitled sense of national security that ignores the needs of other species, other nations, and even our own future generations.
The egocentric society is exceptional at controlling the world up to a point –the point at which it seems to be destroying it. Like Bill Plotkin wrote, “The egocentric society cuts out its own heart and attempts to live without it.” And so it has become the antithesis of man as human animal, whereas nature-based man is the apotheosis. Instead of only using our vainglorious narcissistic faces as mirrors for each other, we need to once again learn how to use the entire cosmos as a reflection.
Now enter the ecocentric perspective. It is more difficult to recognize because of the 2,000 year enculturation of the egocentric perspective, but it is based upon healthiness on the micro level, empathy and tolerance on the cultural level, and holistic cultivation and interconnectedness on the macro level.
This is the type of perspective that focuses on wellbeing, moderation, and balance. Its method is simple and healthy: discover, open, free, create, and rebirth. It does this over and over, on both micro and macro levels, leaving a cultivated garden of balanced forces and healthy, sustainable reproduction in its wake. It gives slowly, but it’s a meaningful gift.
The eco-centric perspective is about thinking holistically; what deep ecologist Arne Naess calls the “ecological self” or what James Hillman calls “a psyche the size of the earth.” The general principle of the psyche is that the deeper we understand ourselves the more of the world we will be able to identify with.
As ecologist Gregory Bateson asserts, “Psyche is not a separate entity from nature, it is an aspect of nature.” The natural world acts like a mirror for our psyches, a screen on which we project our fears and anxieties. Raised, as most of us are, in the egocentric culture, we are typically unable to recognize the connection between nature and psyche.
This is usually because of years and years of nature deprivation. When we deprive ourselves of nature we also deprive ourselves of a healthy psyche. This deprivation creates an unhealthy schism between the two, where psyche becomes psychosis and nature becomes anti-nature. And so our vision of ourselves and our reality becomes warped, and the dissociation between human nature and the “sacred other” occurs.
At the end of the day, a nation that favors competition over cooperation, taking over sharing and hoarding over gifting, approaches spiritual death. When profit is valued over people, money over meaning and entitlement over justice, we have given into the great lie of the ego: that everything is separate and not connected.
What we need is to put the “eco” back into economy. The primary goal should be a healthy process, not a good quarterly statement. This will require immense courage. Part two of Becoming the Tipping Point will go into adopting a courage-based lifestyle over a fear-based one.