Since I was a child, I have dreamt about meeting Manatees. I have long been fascinated with these gentle giants. Recently, I wondered why I never went to see them as it is pretty easy and inexpensive for me to go to Florida. So I decided to fulfill my dream!
The day I went was not a great day for Manatee watching as the weather was fairly warm. The week before there were over 500 Manatees in this little area, that day there were 50. Still it was an amazing experience! I watched them for hours, my eyes adjusting so that I was able to see them better. They are such sweet beings. I bathed in their energy and was often brought to tears. I could feel an incredible Love and harmony coming from them.
Then I heard a woman next to me say to her family, “I am going to have to read up on these when we get back. I don’t understand their reason for existence.” Even her family was stunned and asked what she meant.
It appears, she thought they should be more productive or I’m guessing more beneficial to humans. This represents a common, dangerous, and outdated perspective of Nature. For too long, humans have considered the value of Nature in regards to the benefit (especially financial benefit) to humans.
Of course, this led to the destruction of our native old growth forests including the removal of Redwood Trees. This has allowed us to poison the Waters with chemicals and sewer sludge because Water’s purpose is to move things and clean things, make them disappear. This gives permission to killing animals for trophy hunting. Or greatly changing the land to create housing tracts. And it even goes further towards removing or killing the Indigenous or other humans who are in the way of financial gains.
We are still following this belief today which is quite evident. It is also quite insane. We are knowingly destroying our Home, who provides everything that we need to live, so that a select few can have large amounts of paper (not even paper anymore, now just digital numbers).
So when I heard this woman’s question. I wondered who should be defending their existence more, humans or Manatees?
I think the real question is “What is OUR reason for existence?” Every aspect of Nature has a role, a purpose. We have learned this the hard way, by removing unwanted Beings (like Wolves) and seeing how greatly this changed the wellbeing of an ecosystem. Nature does not waste. Since we are, whether we realize it or not, part of Nature, this means that we too are here for a reason.
On some level this is one of the core questions every person is asked, “Who are you and why are you here?” This is part of the focus of the work I do with the HEARTransformation Apprenticeship and Plant Initiations. More than the individual question though, I think we need to consider the communal role of humans.
There are many who argue that humans do not have a role, we are parasites. However, if that was true, we wouldn’t be here. I feel that we are just beginning to discover our role. From my work with Plants, I think that we are creators. We have these wonderful hands that allow us to pick up and move materials and unlike Plants, we have amazing feet and legs which enable us to move rather quickly over large expanses. In a way, I feel that we are the large worker Ants for the Earth. The ideal is that we connect with Nature and receive guidance which informs our actions, our creations. When we do this, often the work becomes easier.
Plants are our Ancestors. They are great adaptors. We have much that we can learn from them. Fortunately, they are great teachers and are mostly, happy to help us. That is if we can be humble enough to recognize that we need help; we are not the Supreme Beings we thought we were. And maybe along the way, we will realize that our purpose is greater than earning money.
From being with the Manatees, I learned that Manatee mothers will nurse any baby. I think there is a lesson here for us. I believe it is imperative that we realize we are all in this together. Our survival is dependent on the survival of each other, as well as, the survival of the other Beings with whom we share this beautiful Home.
Today, I was reminded by Nicole Heller, the Curator of the Anthropocene at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, that from our very creation, we are creatures of symbiosis. Our cells contain mitochondria and chloroplasts which have different DNA than the DNA found in the nucleus. The basis of our being is symbiosis! Not to mention the large amounts of bacterial cells that constitute our body. It is time to remember that we are communal beings, we are Nature, we are a vital part of this Earth and begin to act as such.
As Robin Wall Kimmerer writes in Braiding Sweetgrass, “So much has been forgotten, but it is not lost as long as the land endures and we cultivate people who have the humility and ability to listen and learn. And the people are not alone. All along the path, nonhuman people help. What knowledge the people have forgotten is remembered by the land. The others want to live, too. The path is lined with all the world’s people, in all colors of the medicine wheel—red, white, black, yellow—who understand the choice ahead, who share a vision of respect and reciprocity, of fellowship with the-more-than-human world. Men with fire, women with water, to reestablish balance, to renew the world.”
May we join this path together!