Is understanding forest wealth instructive?
Is there analogy of functionality
with healthy wealthy human society?
Unlimited capacity to host is healthy
when the hosted is abundance, diversity, stability and stillness.
What encourages this capacity?
If healthy is supported by wealthy,
What is the critical component of wealth
And how does it arise?
The forest says “biological material”,
which never becomes biological materialism.
The forest does not cling to itself.
It is merely incidental
that solar energy is transformed into biomass,
and that CO2 is sequestered in plants.
Without cooking anything up,
chlorophyll just does its thing
and complexity comes out of that.
Of course all the elements must cooperate.
Without warmth, moisture, earth, air and plenty of space,
nothing could be wealthy or healthy, or even breathe.
So, great capacity is health.
Wealth of biomass underwrites health.
Green leaves produce wealth.
Healthier begets more chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll grows the wealth.
Wealthier leads to healthier, healthier to wealthier, endlessly.
Is it the same in human society?
If wealth causes health,
what is that underpinning wealth?
Some say yen, some say yun.
Without giving it away,
They’re both just three-letter words.
Is generosity that primary cause of healthy society?
Is healthy society the generosity catalyst?
Forests feed back on themselves
Transcending the awkward manipulations of foresters.
Is the healthy wealthy human loop like that ---
hosting abundance, diversity, stability and peace
giving rise to more giving, giving rise to more hosting?
If so, how does it work,
generosity growing healthy humans and webs of humans?
Is that really the underlying richness?
Can we go underneath,
to where that wealth of generosity is created?
Or is it created at all?
If it’s genuine human wealth,
perhaps it is self existing
and merely needs uncovering.
Could revealing our own natural generosity
actually enrich the whole world?
Until we strip it naked, it’s just an idea.
Important questions request deep reflection.
What can we learn from the forest
about ourselves, our families, our communities, our world?
Might it be most instructive
to abandon the thinking altogether,
to rest in stillness with forest mind
where the sophistications
of science, philosophy, and the written word
dissolve into the liquid crystallinity of space.
It has been suggested that the wealth of natural landscapes may be even more than a metaphor for wealth in human society. Perhaps the functional relationship between wealth and health in the forest is precisely analogous to the critical functionality for healthy human communities. Let’s explore this.
A healthy forest has tremendous capacity for hosting, in dynamic stability (read “sustainability”), an abundance and diversity of interdependent life forms. That healthiness is dependent on wealth, which, from the forest’s point of view, is biological material (biomass). In other words, the more biomass in the forest, the healthier it is. Biomass is produced at the point where sunlight is incident on chlorophyll, where solar energy is transformed into plant material, where CO2 is sequestered in complex carbon compounds which are the building blocks of life. One could go back and back, asking what conditions are required for chlorophyll and sunlight to appear, what causes water, earth, air and space to join in, and so on. However, let’s be simple-minded and call photosynthesis the primary cause of forest wealth, and forest wealth the primary cause of a healthy forest.
The web of interdependent life, which is the forest, increases in size and complexity as a result of the transformation of solar energy into biomass through photosynthesis in chlorophyll in green vegetation. As the weight of biomass, forest wealth, increases, the capacity of the forest to host the abundance and diversity of life increases. That increase, in turn, means more chlorophyll is present, generating more wealth; as the forest becomes wealthier, heavier with biomass, its capacity for hosting life increases further. This is a positive feedback mechanism which has led to a steady increase in biological abundance and diversity over many millennia.
So, what does this have to do with human society? We might say that a society characterized by human decency and richness of experience is a healthy society. Could societal health be measured in the same way as the health of a forest, namely the “capacity for hosting, in dynamic stability, an abundance and diversity” of people? Perhaps we should add something about living in peace and mutual encouragement. Then what is the wealth that supports this healthy society? How is that wealth “created”?
Does a similar positive feedback force exist? In other words, is there some fundamental element of wealth in human society that is the primary cause of societal health, where health is defined as the capacity for hosting abundance, diversity, stability, and peace? If a process exists that is analogous to the forest system, it would mean that when more wealth is created, the society would become healthier, and as the society becomes healthier, more wealth would be created.
What might be that basic element of wealth? Is it generosity? That’s a nice word, but let’s not let it lull us to sleep. This hypothesis needs to be thoroughly tested, both through intellectual analysis and real-world experimentation. If we can identify the key unit of wealth, then all we have to do to create a healthier society is figure out how that wealth is created and how to stimulate that process.
Let’s play with this a bit. If generosity is wealth, then how is generosity created? Some people might say that generosity can’t be created, because it is already present, a natural attribute of being fully human. On the other hand, even if that is so, we may not realize that truth. In that case, how is inherent generosity revealed or discovered? How do humans wake up to their natural inclination toward generosity? How is it that more generosity would make the society healthier? How is it that a healthy society would encourage greater generosity, and so on? These may be among the most important questions for individuals and for society.
Perhaps it is not surprising that age-old processes in natural landscapes have much in common with the dynamics of human society. The linkages are written indelibly in ecological history. While some might argue that better analogies could be found between single wild species and humans, that argument gets bogged down in our preconceptions about “competition” and the “survival of the fittest.” Because of this, it may be more useful, in terms of lessons for human society, to explore the structure and function of entire natural communities rather than focusing on individual wild species.
Whatever we may think about the evolution of species, it is clear from our experience that although competitiveness and territoriality may be habits imbedded in our bones, generosity is deeper than that, in the very marrow of our bones. Surely, fundamental human wealth must be very close to who we are, naturally. Tapping the reality of our own generosity just might enrich the world. The key question arising from this is, “How can we increase the expression of generosity in human society?”
The extent to which we can answer this question, theoretically and practically, just may be the extent to which we can manifest a genuinely healthy society. If so, this is precisely analogous to the forest question, “How can we increase the production of biomass?” In the case of forests, we know that the answer is to increase the surface area of chlorophyll. What is the analogous answer for how to increase the manifestation of generosity in our human society?
There is a two million year old man no one knows,
They cut into his rivers,
Peeled wide pieces of hide from his legs,
Left scorch marks on his buttocks.
He did not cry out.
No matter what they did, he held firm.
Now he raises his stabbed hands and
Whispers that we can heal him yet.
We begin the bandages, the rolls of gauze, the salve,
the gut, the needles, the grafts.
We slowly, carefully turn his body face up.
Under him, his life long over,
The old woman is perfect and unmarked.
He has lain upon his two million year old woman all this time,
Protecting her with his old back,
And the soil beneath her is black with their tears.