The Anthropocentric Lens And The Possibility Of More

June 27, 2023

by Hagar Harpak

The seal and the anthropocentric lens

How is your body feeling post Solstice, nourished by sunshine, settling into a new season? Did you take a moment to pause with the sun at its peak, and allow it to speak to you in rays? Did you have a chance to slow down, just a little, and relish the life force pouring in? Are you leaning into the possibility of more?

The kids and I went to the beach on the Summer Solstice. We set all our stuff down; picnic bag, snack bag, beach basket with towels and sunscreen and sarong wraps and robes, a warm layer bag (Santa Monica has arctic weather in June) sand toys, and boogie boards. 

My dad has stories of his mother (I never got to meet her. She died way before I was born) taking him and his sister to the beach in Tel-Aviv. On the bus. WIth millions of baskets and food for an entire nation. Yep! I have turned into my grandma. Minus the bus. But I digress. 

We set all our stuff down.

And there it was…

Warming in the sun, relaxing on the beach, majestic, wild, with shiny fur that reflected the sun… 

A seal. 

We sat down nearby, but not too close, respectful of an unspoken boundary. And the deep eyes stared at us, whispering something ancient about being untamed. 

The kids and I were a bit concerned at first. Is the seal ok? Why is it out of the water? Why on the beach, in such close proximity to humans? Do we need to do something? Call someone? 

It is not unusual for a single seal to come out and rest on the beach for a few hours or even a few days. I know that, but still, I was concerned. 

The lifeguards put a sign up, explaining that this is perfectly normal. “The animal is under observation” the sign said. And there was a list of things one shouldn’t do, like; Keep your distance from wild life, or; don’t try to scare seals and chase them into the water, or; don’t spray marine mammals with water; or; don’t poke a beached mammal. I mean, we humans really needed that in writing. 

Throughout the afternoon we watched the ways different people interacted with this beautiful creature. Some with awe and reverence. Some with concern. There was curiosity and fascination. 

The seal used their flexible neck to look at every person that walked by. The fascination was mutual. 

Many people came too close. The lifeguards had to keep coming down from their watchtower and tell people to keep their distance. One lady tried to talk to the seal in sign language and show with her hands and arm movements how to get back into the water. There was a kid that threw sand at the seal (I wanted to throw that kid into the mouth of a shark). 

A few people walked by, hardly noticing. Most people stopped and tried to figure out what needed to be done. A sense of responsibility was awakened in many hearts, and wanting to help the animal was a common thread. The care and concern were palpable.  

We humans always think we have to “do something.”

We forget how powerful nature is. Our human centered perspective makes us think that we’re somehow separate from nature. We have developed in such a way that has made us forget that we are the very power of nature embodied. 

There’s an anthropocentric lens through which we view everything. 

Some of us feel entitled. This is here for our entertainment, isn’t it? This makes for a great IG post. I mean… OMG posing next to a beached seal with that new bathing suit is like so many likes. 

Some of us feel responsible. All the issues, all the problems that we cause, are here for us to worry about. For us to fix. For us to take care of. For us to solve. 

It makes some sense that how we see the world is through a human centered perspective. We are humans, after all. What other eyes could we see the world through? But it’s precisely because we are human, and our ability to imagine is so grand, that we could expand our vision and learn to decentralize ourselves. Just a little bit?

I have to pause and remember that not all human cultures developed in ways that are disconnected from all of life. Indigenous thinking is not anthropocentric. It’s rooted in reciprocity, in the understanding of us as a part of the whole, not apart from soil. 

We know that we are destroying the planet. The planet as we know it. She has known herself in many other ways before we arrived at the scene. 

What’s here now will not last, that’s for sure. The planet that we think we own will be gone. But she will be ok. After we disappear from here, and take many of the animals and plants with us, something else will happen. She will restore life. Recreate. Regenerate. Repurpose. Redirect. Redefine. And remember us as a quick chapter, a passage in time, a short phase in her-story. 

She’s done it before. She’ll do it again. 

I have to remind myself that humans have created beauty too. That some of our inventions are incredible. That our inventive power itself is quite phenomenal. Our ability to think and learn, and envision, and create is miraculous. And we can use it in ways that bring us deeper into connection, further into reciprocity. We can change. We are the embodiment of change. 

Over the weekend I went to an incredibly inspiring event called Three Black Men – a gathering of art and activism, poetry and planet, ritual and revolutionary thinking, somatics and social justice. It was led by Bayo Akomolafe, Resmaa Menakem, and Orland Bishop. There was so much wisdom. I came home buzzing with renewed appreciation for what humanity could be. 

One event isn’t life changing. But one event can be the initiation of a transformative voyage. An initiation isn’t only the beginning of something. It’s in the middle of everything. It’s the edge of existence. It’s a dissolution. It is the resistance, the boundary, the braking, the struggle, the surrender, the howl, the grief, the love, the roar, and the imaginative process that carries forth into creation. 

It felt like floating in space with other particles wanting to connect.

Can I let it happen?

Oh yeah.

Let the “I” rest for just one breath.

Like sitting on ancient rocks in new ways.

Falling into an abyss that embraces the finite

In infinite ways

Like love

Like being swallowed into the black hole in the center of Milky Way

And making music

(The flare of cosmic dust being swallowed by the black hole in the center of our galaxy 200 years ago has been detected by scientists. And the sonic adaptation of the combined data sounds like music)

It felt like the edge

Being on the edges is welcome 

Life is not safe

We need to create safety

Take care of each other

And make room for the danger

Don’t get stuck in safety

Discomfort is not only welcome

It’s necessary. 

A space that invites complexity allows for diversity.

Biodiversity is necessary for a healthy ecosystem.

Let’s sit on the edges together.

Beyond the binaries we can breathe. 

Trying to preserve goes against nature.

The dead parts nourish life.

The possibilities of making this wondrous gift of life into something spectacular resides in our very breath, as we collaborate with the trees and nourish each other, just by existing. We breathe with the plants as they receive sunlight as nourishment. We breathe because the fire of the sun is emanating. The sun lives in our lungs, in our hearts, in our blood, in our every cell. We breathe because water creates the possibility of life, because the amniotic fluid we each come from individually, and the waters we all emerge from collectively. Because plants came out of water and oxygen was made. We breathe because the soil of this earth makes it possible for all of this to happen. 

Let it happen. Let the wonder in. Let the miracle of living your life in, mundane as it may seem. Let the marvelous, the monstrous, the magical in. 

And if you want to play/work with the elements, with magic, with the mundane, with the miraculous, with mythology, with nature, with the power of the sun, with your own journey, and with the ways in which you can imagine and intentionally weave your process into the fabric of life, the Somatic Ceremony of the Summer Solstice is still relevant and available. It’s not just about the solstice, it’s a whole journey into the season. The details are here. I hear good things, so check it out. 

Sending you so much love,

Hagar

May 23, 2024

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