In our modern “Western” culture, perhaps more so than in any other culture in history, we’re taught to see and relate to surfaces. Even when we dissect or disassemble things, we find within them more surfaces. Atom, nucleus, electron, quark…on and on through layers of surfaces. Underlying qualities and interconnections evade us, retreating from the spade as we dig deeper and deeper into the soil of matter.
We can cut through the trunk of a tree, observe the rings and grain, name the tangible processes through which it derives nourishment from earth and sky, but what does this tree know? How does it feel? What is its inner, subjective, experience of the world, and how does it relate to and communicate with the forest? We learn from a young age that these questions are inherently silly, childish. We learn to dismiss an investigation into the mind of a tree or the subjective experience of a forest as unscientific and unreal. And yet when we create a world in which only humans’ subjective experience is real, we become dead to the complex, living web of intelligence that surrounds and infuses our ecosystems, our bodies, and our minds. The illusion of aloneness is at best painful, and at worst the driving force behind Earth’s next mass extinction.