Ten Guiding Principles
...I try to live my life by --- [Estimated reading time: 5 min.]
Some months ago, I stumbled upon a brief but surprisingly profound post on social media, composed by Ramon Elani, a writer whose essays I’ve long appreciated and whose early writings have had some influence on my own thought. In it, he casually and modestly stated five guiding principles that he lives his life by. I’ve thought long and hard about what my own guiding principles might include, and I finally came up with the following. I could not possibly limit myself to five principles – brevity was never a virtue of mine – but I’ve tried to keep it as concise as possible. The seventh principle is borrowed from Elani’s list and slightly amended to suit my own views.
➀ Biocentrism (as opposed to anthropocentrism) - Humans are but one part of Nature, not exempt from the rules every other Living Being has to follow (see ➇) and not superior to any other species. We are better at some things and worse at others, so comparing ourselves to other species is pointless. The land as a whole and its wellbeing always come first (see ➈), since no species can thrive healthily and happily on a damaged landbase. Other animals, plants and fungi are, quite literally, our relatives, and we are much more alike than people tend to think. Our body contains all parts of the biosphere – we’re made of mountains, soil, wind, rivers and oceans.
➁ Neo-Animism - Everyone and every-“thing” is (not has!) Spirit (see ➃), is alive and sentient; with dreams, hopes, fears, ambitions, wishes, and emotions (which are not limited to the human experience, see ➀). Living Beings are all attributed with personhood and deserve the respect that comes with that attribute (see ➆ and ➈). Interspecies understanding and communication (see ➂ and ➇) are virtues to be cultivated. Nature (in all her forms, from the micro- to the macroscopic level) is an organism, not a machine, and sacred. No other explanation of organisms, their behaviors, and seemingly random natural processes and phenomena makes as much sense as an animist one. But always remember that there is no one “Animism” – it is a belief system as diverse as the landscapes it arises from.
➂ Becoming Indigenous - Culture, Meaning, Inspiration, Motivation and Spirituality (see ➁) should arise from our Great Mother Nature and her myriad manifestations, whose acts are purposeful and goal-oriented (see ➇). Finding one's niche and becoming part of the landscape and a functioning member of the ecosystem one inhabits are crucial to a successful and fulfilling life. Knowing your environment intimately is the most basic knowledge one should have. Live as if you’re one with the land (see ➀ and ➄), as if your life, both spiritually and materially (see ➃), depends on it, and as if all future generations will have (at least!) the same chances at living a good, wholesome life that you had (see ➈). But beware of cultural appropriation!
➃ There are no absolute dualisms - no good/evil, dark/light, spirit/matter, rural/urban, healthy/poisonous, egalitarian/hierarchical, male/female, child/adult, carnivore/herbivore, etc. As a result, purism of any kind is pointless. If you give in to occasional cravings, sway between opinions or states, or sometimes lose your temper that's perfectly fine. Nobody’s perfect. Forcing yourself to abide by arbitrary purist rules at all times tends to increase stress and decrease happiness. You can’t only be “good” all the time. Always remember that nothing is black or white (see ➄ and ➅). Things are not “either-or” – the more truthful metaphor is the symbol of Yin and Yang, each side melting into each other and containing a seed of the other, not the Quarter Moon binary.
➄ Everything is interconnected, ephemeral and ever-changing. We all arose from the same hundun, the primordial chaos or singularity, and have been constantly circulating (see ➅) through various forms and stages ever since. The unchanging Self is an illusion. Everything is always in motion, mountains are eroded and raise up elsewhere, atoms enter and leave your body constantly, and syntropy balances entropy. The only constant is change. Don’t resist it. “We are one” might sound like a cliché, but it is in fact a fundamental truth being validated every single moment.
➅ Life and all other processes of the Universe are ultimately cyclical. Everything runs in cycles, some smaller and some larger, and everything is part of the same whole (see ➄ and ➀). When we die, the molecules that make up our bodies return to the next larger cycle and, simultaneously, enter myriad smaller ones. The linear perception of time is an illusion. Energy and matter are constantly re-cycled, and birth follows death as growth follows decay. We should aid the smooth revolution of all such cycles wherever we can.
➆ Quietism – Try to accept things as they are, don’t resist or force them unnecessarily. Another way to say this is “follow the Tao”, and allow everything else to follow it as well. To me, this also means to tread lightly: minimize waste and any other environmental impact wherever possible, use as little as possible, and avoid loud noise, bright lights and other disturbances as best as possible. All other Living Beings follow this rule, so you should too. Respect those that suffer and/or die for you (plants/animals/fungi) and that you share your habitat with. Ask for forgiveness and give thanks for each invasion of another entity’s sovereignty, whether it’s a place or a Living Being (see ➁ and ➈).
➇ If in need for advice or in doubt, ask the trees and fellow animals (and fungi, people always forget fungi!). Other Living Beings are our teachers (see ➁), and if we learn how to listen to them (see ➂), we will make wiser choices (see ➆ and ➉). We can derive a great many things by listening to those who successfully inhabit this planet for aeons longer than we have. Our species is young, our culture is even younger, and we haven’t all found our path yet (as is evident by the atrocities committed by the dominant culture). They teach us the Law of Life.
➈ Reciprocate – for everything you receive or take, try to compensate and remediate however possible. Sometimes it’s enough to say thanks, sometimes a return gift is more appropriate, sometimes you can find other ways to give something back. Needless to say, this is by no means limited to intraspecies interactions (see ➀), but should ideally be done each time you dig a hole, pluck a flower, break a branch or pick a berry, and each time somebody (animal, plant or fungus) gives their life for you (see ➁ and ➂).
➉ Strive to become wise – wisdom should be one of the ultimate goals of our human life. Not only knowledge, but the wisdom of what to do with this knowledge and how to apply it to best benefit the Greater Good (see ➀). We have to become good elders for the following generations. Only then true sustainability can be achieved, only then can we be sure to fulfill our destiny and be one with Nature (see ➁ and ➂).