Purpose of This Blog

Devoted to guiding educators towards a centered and intentional Montessori practice.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Biophilia* (or Love of Life and the Desire to be Whole)




An Essence

I have such fondness for this life. When considered in silence, detached from the burdens and pleasures of each day, there is a balanced mystery to it, and I find myself marveling at the beauty of it all. From where does such attachment spring? Could it really be that it is merely our sensorial appreciation of our immediate environment, moment by moment, that connects us - or is there something more?

An Energy

What is it that calls to us? What is it that moves and shapes us, shakes us and takes us, in turns - first gently beckoning us closer, whispering, near teasing – then, at times, roughly by the collar, demanding our attention, that we wake up - to be fully here and now and present? Is it within us, or from without? Is it our soul, our spirit – or the spirits that sweep around us? Is it biological or psychological? Of life itself, or of the mind suspended?

An Ethos

Of all, such are the questions to our lives that lay incomplete and stranded, strung-out and wanting. These are the infinite riddles that reach forever outwards to the horizon. That they oft go unanswered, in fact, makes them all the more captivating and seductive. What is a question, after all… but a quest?

An Eagerness

There is a voice and rhythm, a pattern of play that guides our days. Who is at the helm?
Oh, Captain, guide my hand and on the rudder till. Stand beside me, and help me keep watch for the storm. 

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(*Note: Credit is due to both to Erich Fromm and E.O. Wilson, two pre-eminent thinkers and posthumous thought partners on this journey. Truth be told, after finishing an earlier draft of the simple reflections above, I was looking for a title that would reflect “love of life”. I credit my years in upper elementary classrooms for letting etymology fuel my search, ultimately landing quite naturally on the term “biophilia”. Little did I know that others preceded me in naming what I explore above. First Fromm, then Wilson, used the term “biophilia” to describe life and our relationship to it.

In The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness (1973), Fromm wrote:

“Biophilia is the passionate love of life and all that is alive; it is the wish to further growth, whether in a person, a plant, an idea, or group. The biophilous person prefers to construct rather than retain. He wants to be more than to have more. He is capable of wondering, and he prefers to see something new rather than find confirmation in the old. He loves the adventure of living more than he does certainty. He sees the whole rather than only the parts, structures rather than summations. He wants to mold and to influence by love, reason, and example” (p.336).

Earlier, in The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil (1964), Fromm reflected:

“The tendency to preserve life and to fight against death is the most elementary form of the biophilous orientation, and is common to all living substance. Inasmuch as it is a tendency to preserve life, and to fight death, it represents only one aspect of the drive toward life. The other aspect is a more positive one: living-substance has the tendency to integrate and to unite; it tends to fuse with different and opposite entities, and grow in a structural way. Unification and integrated growth are characteristic of all life processes, not only as far as cells are concerned, but also with regard to feeling and thinking” (p. 45).

Working with Stephen R. Kellert in The Biophilia Hypothesis (1995), Wilson interpreted and redefined biophilia as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life” (p. 416).
  
Originally, Wilson explored these ideas in Biophilia (1984), set in both an evolutionary and mystical context:

“[W]e are human in good part because of the particular way we affiliate with other organisms. They are the matrix in which the human mind originated and is permanently rooted, and they offer the challenge and freedom innately sought. To the extent that each person can feel like a naturalist, the old excitement of the untrammeled world will be regained. I offer this as a formula of re-enchantment to invigorate poetry and myth: mysterious and little-known organisms live within walking distance of where you sit. Splendor awaits in minute proportions” (p. 139).

While certainly not definitive, nor necessarily answers to the questions posed in this post, I look forward to studying these perspectives further toward a greater understanding of ultimate truth).




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