Disconnection from Nature in Action
How to reduce our troubles
by learning to use an organic process that helps us transform
discontents into constructive relationships.
Web of Life Imperative, M.J. Cohen
"I go to nature to be
soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order."
- John Burroughs
On April 18, 1972, Karen, a
high school junior who was quitting school, said to her principal:
"Dr. Miler, you can't teach me what I want to know because
what I want to know is how not to be like you." Karen's
words come to mind more and more as I watch well intentioned
folks that I love hurt themselves, each other and Earth. Their
best thinking about how to solve our runaway problems has proven
not to be as thoughtful as it needs to be.
Karen, after many attempts
to "adjust," had decided to drop out of school. She
was an excellent student and Dr. Miler pleaded with her to remain.
He pledged that he would teach her anything she wanted to know.
That's when she told him he did not have the ability to do that.
She explained that the effects of his thinking and relationships
depressed her. They showed that neither he nor the faculty knew
what she wanted to know, no less how to teach it. That knowledge
was unavailable to the public in 1972. It is, however, available
today through the Organic Psychology of a natural system thinking
Although they played their
role well in school, Karen's faculty was a cross section of society,
then and today. For example, despite the warning labels, 30%
of them smoked cigarettes. Because they protected others from
the smoke by providing themselves with a smoking area, they were
within their legal rights. Smoking was not, and is not, illegal.
Karen felt that if cigarettes became illegal, smoking and its
adverse effects would not stop. In her social studies paper she
wrote "It would be like deer hunting. In many states more
deer are poached illegally than are legally killed during hunting
season." In that paper Karen also said "We can't make
sense of how our society educates and governs us because it is
Karen discovered what most
people tell me they know. With respect to helping us sustain
happy, responsible lives, the education we receive, in and out
of school, is often no more effective than the warning label
on a pack of cigarettes. Karen was different than many students.
In counseling she learned something extra. She discovered the
integrity and value of her subconscious thinking, she started
to register her 53 natural senses. She found that she wanted
and deserved more than what school provided. She began to realize
that the world and its people were at risk. Her paper said "We
are in jeopardy. We don't just need information, we need an effective
process. I want to learn how to build responsible relationships.
That is not happening in this school" she wrote, "To
teach it or learn it, you must live it. I have tried, in vain,
to make that happen here."
meeting, the faculty pleaded with Karen to stay in school, for
she was an excellent student. "I'm afraid to stay,"
Karen said. "The abusiveness in the world scares me."
She choked, "We are on the brink of nuclear war. And the
natural environment is deteriorating so quickly there may not
be a world for me to live in." Her tears flowed freely.
"There is nothing abnormal with me feeling depressed at
times. The hurt I feel is real. It comes from knowing and watching
people being killed or bird species decline. I am tired of putting
Band-Aids on that hurt in counseling and thinking there is something
wrong with me personally. That hurt will only disappear as abusiveness
disappears, as sensitivity, peace and birds reappear. That is
not happening here. "This school is contaminated, it's a
subculture, a breeding ground for our problems."
Mrs. Cook tried to speak. "Let
me finish please," Karen said, and continued: "The
school has just bulldozed the natural area on the building's
west side to build still another lawn. That area was not only
a nesting and feeding habitat for birds. It was a womb for all
forms of life, a place that I loved, where I could find peace
at lunch time and after school. Compared to being in class, or
even in counseling, that place made sense. It was beautiful,
it felt right. I could go there depressed about my life and safely
feel all the beauty and life that flourished there. In just a
few minutes, I would feel much better. I refuse to be touched
by the thinking here that has been bulldozed into such stupidity
as to bulldoze that natural area." she said.
Dr. Miler interrupted, "Karen, there was no choice. That
was part of a legal contract from years ago. We had to fulfill
that contract or be sued. And some students smoke marijuana in
"I don't smoke marijuana"
said Karen, "I feel sad for those that do. I feel even sadder
that the law says that I must spend 1/2 of my waking life indoors
in school. This environment is bulldozing paradise to make still
another lawn. Dr. Miler, you once told me that we learn more
from the world around us than we do from books and lectures.
I simply refuse to trash paradise or learn to do it. I refuse
to let you rub off on me any further. What's wrong with that?
It makes sense to me." She seemed stronger for her statement
and its intensity.
"Earth and its people
are at risk," Karen continued, "Every year in this
country, five thousand square miles of nature are being bulldozed
into oblivion. How can you possibly teach us to deal with that
massacre when you are engaged in it? What are you thinking? What
sense is there for me to sit in Social Studies class to discover
that our nuclear generating plants are dangerous yet their total
electrical output equals the energy this country uses just to
run hair dryers? That makes no sense. What do we learn here that
helps us stop using hair dryers? To be accepted here, I feel
pressured to use one, not to decease. Where is the sense in that?
In Biology we learn that a decade ago Rachel Carson showed the
danger in using pesticides and chemicals . Since then we've introduced
thousands of new chemicals every year into the environment. What
are you thinking when you use these chemicals on our lawns here?
I don't want to learn to think like that. What kind of a world
is school teaching my mind to build?" she asked passionately.
Dr. Miler calmly advised Karen
that the school did the best it could. If she left, she would
be truant and there would be consequences. She would not be able
to attend college. Karen replied: "I don't care. I choose
to learn elsewhere. It's too stupid here. Here, society sentences
me to live in an irresponsible mold, a change resistant, indoor
learning environment that assaults the natural foundations of
life. This environment is so boring, controlled and stifling
that most students are drugged out or into something that is
outlandish, self-destructive or socially harmful. I'm spending
close to 18,000 hours of my most impressionable, developmental
years in this nature isolated school closet. That's like growing
up in another culture, a destructive one, at that."
Mrs. Cook, the English teacher,
objected, "I, and other faculty members, have taught you
repeatedly that these things don't make sense." "Not
really," Karen retorted, "You merely say these things
don't make sense. What you really teach me by forcing me to be
in this setting is that I must adopt to being part of a runaway
stupidity. You don't teach me how to successfully deal with it.
Wake up, Mrs. Cook! You don't know how to stop it so how are
you going to teach that? Am I supposed to just accept your belief
that the communists and minorities cause our problems? At church
we have a conflict as to whether it is right to subdue the Earth
as the Bible says. Isn't there a separation between Church and
State? You are not compelled here to subdue the Earth, so why
do you do it and teach it?"
"This has nothing to do
with religion" said Mrs. Cook. "Maybe not to you."
Karen replied, "I have friends for whom that woodland was
a cathedral. Think about it, weren't the lives of our greatest
spiritual leaders shaped by profound experiences in nature? "
Smiling, Mr. Langely, the social
studies teacher said: "Karen, cheer up. You are going to
be the first woman President of the United States." Wiping
her tears, Karen stammered "Oh sure, the first president
with a prison record. State laws say I will go to prison if I
am truant. That sucks! I don't care, I'll take my chances. Go
ahead, turn me in. The law has me jailed here right now anyhow.
The big advantage to being in this jail is that I can walk out
and find a better way to learn. That's what I'm going to do,"
she stated confidently.
Karen's words bring to mind
a study done by a sociologist in Maine. It shows that the students'
level of moral in a high school is the same as the prisoners'
level of moral in a state penitentiary. My research shows that
this does not happen if you teach people organic psychology techniques
that enable their thinking to tap into the sensory strings of
the web of life. As I show below, today, Karen would not want
to leave school if the natural systems thinking process was part
of the curriculum.
The following semester, Karen
enrolled in the outdoor school I founded. So did Mr. Langely,
as a university graduate student. The program lets contact with
nature and nature-centered people teach students of any age how
to be more personally, environmentally and socially responsible.
In the process, they learn the academics they need to make it
Was Karen foolish to leave
her school? She finished her education through courses that taught
her how to reconnect her thinking with the web of life. Today,
those courses and degree programs are available to any interested
person through distance learning, guided, home study activities,
workshops, internships and degree programs through the internet.
People like Mr. Langely facilitate some of them. Anybody can
learn the process at home by simply doing the sensory nature
reconnecting activities that manifest it. Karen went on to become
a successful environmental lawyer, professor and advocate for
sustaining responsible relationships.
Each of us sincerely desires
to live responsibly in a healthy, safe social and natural environment.
But, we still learn how to think today as Karen was taught to
think 26 years ago. For example, today, as then, we pulverize
the area around our home and school into a lawn. We do this,
even though we know that lawns demand polluting chemicals and
that they replace vital wildlife habitat. But, our ingrained,
nature-separated language story floods our conscious thinking.
That story says: "Lawns are instinctive" "Lawns
are not illegal" "We are within our rights to have
lawns." "We are cleaning up the area." "A
lawn beautifies this place." "It improves where I live."
"It's part of the American dream." "It is against
the town ordinance not to have a lawn." "A lawn increases
my property value." "I'll feel out of place if my place
looks different than the neighborhood." "It makes it
easier to sell my home." "It gives me a sense of pride.
" "I've always had a lawn." "A natural area
breeds dangerous things." "It's the decent thing to
do" "I'll feel run down when my place looks run down."
"It gives me something to do" "It provides a safe
way for me to be outdoors." "Lawns are our culture
Under the above nature disconnecting
barrage of stories, and without being nurtured, our inherent
love for natural areas dissolves. Lawns, golf courses, and many
of our other questionable choices, flourish because our nature
disconnected stories, not the natural fulfillment of our inner
nature emotions, carve our destiny.
We bond to our stories. I know
and enjoy the people that made the above statements about lawns.
They are wonderful friends socially, but with respect to the
natural world they are sensory zombies. About 85% of their connection
to nature as been amputated from their consciousness. They enjoy
the natural world through the applauded, but warped, symbols,
behavior and language of a culture disassociated from nature.
It provides them with money. They suffer from our runaway problems
because the natural integrity of their lives and sensitivities
has been as disintegrated as the natural areas that once thrived
where their lawns now exist. Their consciousness is boxed into
the limits of our society's nature
disconnected stories (short and fun, it is worth reading
To read a student's short reaction
to Karen's predicament select here