From Ego-story to Eco-story

lone stone in ocean

Regarding the relationship between Homo sapiens and Nature: Nature itself never needs its own autobiography, even though its history is written in rocks under the earth. Nature has no self-obsession. It is the human who is in love with its own history and measures the value of the world in terms of its own sense of importance. The self -‘I’ – cannot help placing itself at the centre of creation, just as each person seems to want to place themselves at the centre of life.


I should pay royalties to Julian Barnes, and I would happily do so since he is really the finest English writer still alive in Britain. In his Flaubert’s Parrot, he wrote: ‘I was reading Mauriac the other day: the Memoires Interieurs, written at the very end of his life. It’s the time when the final pellets of vanity accumulate into a cyst, when the self starts up its last pathetic murmur of ‘Remember me, remember me… ’; it’s the time when the autobiographies get written, the last boasts are made, and the memories which no one else’s brain still holds are written down with a false idea of value.’


Whenever I am asked this question by a journalist: ‘how would you like to be remembered?’

I would look at the journalist’s face, I am at loss, and totally wordless.

It’s not that I am dying or being toothlessly old, it is that I have never believed in this after-life in which we supposedly gain some immortality, where we live posthumously as the reward of this life and its struggles, and the great works we labored on. Only Jesus and Sartre believe in this sort of vanity. Even de Beauvoir didn’t believe in the posthumous reward, or the idea of the literary immortals. Well, if I have no answer to such a question, I would say I wish to be remembered as a nameless tree, a stone, a palm of sand, a drop of water. We never need or want to remember such things from the point of view of the human value system.


It’s our utter self-absorption and strange habit of belief, that reality revolves around us which makes us unable to see the longer term view.

We are unable to look reality in the face as it is, and see what we are doing. Inside, we already believe in our own story, in which human life is a meaningful, indispensable corner of the cosmos. This is our vanity: The very reason for creation at all is us: we are God’s companions. In that story,

Our real place is beyond this world. Isn’t heaven beyond the sky, and God is waiting up there for us? How strange that we still think like this! Science tells us this is false. But it seems that the essence of our mind has programmed us not to believe it. The self-aggrandizing autobiographical impulse tells us it is false. How strange that a creature born from nature should come to think it is so disconnected from nature.


From where does this alienation come? Maybe it is just a trick of evolution. If creatures have a self-deluding program in their minds about what they are, they are more likely to successfully reproduce and look after their young. But this success comes at a price: ecological destruction.


So, here is my poem, summing up:


The ego is the reason for ecocide.

Ego-death may give us eco-life.

Seeing ourselves as nature means

no longer clinging to the auto-biographical

and its implicit idea that we are immortal.

We are just nature.

Nature is built without purpose or meaning.

When your hand can feel the drops of water,

And see the drops as beautifully meaningless.

Then we shall see things as they are,

rock as rock, tree as tree, water as water.


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