I’ve noticed that most of my posts are focused on the environmental facet of sustainability. It’s not hard to explain; it’s relatively easy to access the world of environmental concerns. They are vast, but relatively focused. Complexity, the other story of how the world works, is not easy to embody but it fairly concise. But when it comes to a new story of what it means to be human, the sustainability story is much more diffuse and hard to pin down. But as I have said in my book, it is the human side of sustainability that needs to be addressed first.

The human story starts with an idea we all already know, but tend to diminish it to the point of meaningless. It is that we are caring, not needing creatures. Care is at the center of our human beingness. Care here is not the same as we mean when we say simply, “I care for you.” It is more about recognizing one’s connectedness to and paying attention to the state of satisfaction of other people and to the health of the world. One also needs to care for one’s own self as well. It is difficult to talk about this aspect of human being without using the word, “need.” When I speak of need without scare quotes, I am speaking of the need to do something (being) as opposed to the need for something (having). The difference may appear trivial but it is huge. It is a primary root cause of the present state of unsustainability. When we fail to care in this way, our human bodies become emptied of aliveness and over-stressed and the world out there becomes neglected and also over-stressed.

I will be looking for articles to post and for other sources of wisdom in this domain. My list of blogs is heavily focused on “green.” Today, I will point to one that touches on the work of Humberto Maturana, one of the people who has most influenced me in my search for understanding of what it means to be human. Juanita Brown, a cofounder of the World Café together with David Isaacs, wrote about her thoughts after attending a workshop in Chile with Maturana. She captured the essence of the teachings in these paragraphs.

“As humans we are born in the trust of loving and in being loved-within an ecology of the natural world and within the larger living cosmos.” Love is the legitimate co-arising of the other in the relational space between us. What we understand as humanness are relations conserved on and in love over many generations of our co-existence.

Humanness is not a genetic mutation. It is a manner of living where there is pleasure in each others company, sharing food, nearness, caressing and tenderness – nor is the capacity for language a genetic mutation – it is an evolutionary drift emerging from the intimacy of human community and the coordination of actions in language together. It is in the intimate community where humanness arises as a network of conversations that is conserved over generations as a lineage through the raising of children over hundreds of generations in manners of living that are conserved in that lineage. Humanness did not arise in competition, struggle etc. It arose in intimate family/community co-existence.

We live in the braiding of emotions and languaging in our manner of living together. In this coordination through language, certain consensus or agreements appear as”reality” and the objects we understand as “real” appear.

Words are not trivial – words are the nodes or elements of networks of conversation. Language is the coordination of doings, not a symbolic act as we commonly understand it. With one word I can follow one path and with another a different path. Our languaging distinguishes a way of inhabiting a human community and culture.

As human beings we find ourselves living in communities in recursive coordination of doings, generating different worlds and realities as different manners of living together in networks of conversation.

A person who reflects creates new worlds. All distinctions are made by an observer. Our capacity for reflection in language is one essence of our humanness. We are human beings that emerged with the capacity to reflect in language and conversations and in that we generate worlds.

Maybe it is the closeness to Valentine’s Day that triggered my thoughts about love and language. But please do not mistake the kind of love Maturana speaks about with the pale, commodified version that comes in the form of the chocolates and roses one can send as a gift for pledging to the local NPR station.

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