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Is it Useful to Love the Non-Living?

Meditation on Interconnection below (8mins)

This week our bathroom faucet officially deteriorated into black crumbly bits and we had to replace it. My son was devastated. Eyes brimming with tears, he asked if we could write a goodbye letter and place it beside the faucet in the garbage bin. While it was difficult for me to hide my amusement as he mournfully drew pictures of ‘sinky’, I also remember feeling deeply attached to inanimate objects as a child. In fact, to this day holding and smelling my childhood blanket can flood me with all sorts of happy feelings. The whole incident helped me to articulate a question I’d been pondering for the past while. Could our lives be improved by valuing the non-living more?


At the molecular scale, there is actually no difference between living and non-living matter. Some think that the distinction between the two lies in the complexity of communication between layers, with the living having far more complicated information exchanges between ‘scales’. Attention is often given to big technological advances that allow us to integrate living and non-living parts, such as prosthetics that can be controlled by the minds of quadriplegics. But what about the fact that all of our bodies are made up of non-living elements, such as water, electricity and protein? It is nothing new for humans to be enmeshed with and dependent upon the non-living. The contemporary Western fear of the non-human and the need to control it is a somewhat unusual view when compared with the attitudes of other cultures.


Beyond the scientific fact that the line between living and non-living is blurry, is there any emotional value is crossing that line and allowing the non-human into our hearts? While it is an extreme example, something in the words of Erika Eiffel, who married the Eiffel tower, does resonate with me. One journalist reported, “She told me how in Japan, the Shinto religion accepted as real that objects have an energy just like people… She explained how the division between a ‘them’ and an ‘it’ was something we learn, not something we’re born with.” This made me think of my son's very organic love for the faucet, and also how the value he placed on that object resulted in him hounding me to find a way to repurpose and reuse it. Perhaps by emotionally attuning with things, we can reconnect with a very natural impulse to protect and preserve our surroundings.

I recently read Timothy Morton’s book ‘Being Ecological’, which was an exploration of how shifting our perceptions about reality can lead to a more meaningful connection to the mass extinction that is in progress. It was a lot to take in. But I did come away with a new perspective, which is that you don’t have to ‘do’ anything to be more ecological. Being ecological is not a moral choice because there is no outside the ecosystem for you to inhabit. You are ecological whether you like it or not because there is nowhere else you can exist. Humans hold tight to the illusion that we can somehow zoom in and out of our lived experience and control it from some safe other place, as though it is a google map. This can lead us to feel that we are alienated from the world. By accepting that you are your environment and your environment is you, as disturbing as that may be (think trillions of gut bacteria…ewwww), you admit that the non-human is crucial to your survival and naturally work to preserve and protect it. As Timothy Morton writes, “…maybe this feeling of disgust will diminish if we become used to our immersion in the biosphere, just like our neurotic feelings diminish as we become friendlier with our thoughts—perhaps through psychotherapy or meditation.”

On that note, here is a meditation to facilitate your connection with the non-living and the non-human. While you may not be ready to snuggle up to a robotic dog afterwards, I hope you at least feel a little more connected to the world.



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