(Video link here.) In this surprising, very moving short film, ecologist Dr. Stephen Harding describes his experience of ‘encounter’, a concept pioneered by radical ecologist David Fleming in his book Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It.
Encounter is when the conceptual structure vanishes and you actually meet the being, as the being comes forth from itself, as itself, revealing itself to you in a way that is beyond your intellect, in a way that’s much more deeply intuitive and much harder to express. In fact, scientific language is inappropriate for this kind of encounter. It’s poetry that does it.
It’s a poetic encounter.
Harding’s encounter with the montjac deer led to a deep experience of the deer, the ecology of the whole forest, of the earth and his place on it:
The whole came into my perception. And then if I was very lucky, that wholeness would spread out and I’d get a sense of the entire Earth.
…I sank into myself. I sank into my wider body, which as my friend David Abram would say, is the earth herself. I became aware of my wider body all through the presence of the montjac.
I sank into my wider body, which…is the earth herself.
We love the idea of becoming aware of our “wider body” through the experience of nature. In Lean Logic, Fleming expands the idea to include individuals:.
To acknowledge the wholeness of a system – a woodland, a person, a planet, nature – means being aware that you are in the presence of something which has business and an agenda of its own, and which cannot be tamed by your understanding. To see nature as a whole, as its own self, you need to approach it with the manners of the stranger – as noted by the great ecologist, Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862):
“To conceive of it with a total apprehension I must for the thousandth time approach it as something totally strange.”
It is a practice that suspends personal judgment and definitions to embrace a wider view.
With thanks to Cara De Silva.