Much of our conventional education is learning “about” nature. We study nature as something separate from us and as an object that is useful to us. We seem to consider ourselves masters of nature. We learn about them because we want to know more about our servant in order to make best use of them. When we – human beings – consider ourselves the masters of earth and have dominion over it we are more likely to either exploit it or abuse it. From this point of view, human beings are a higher species and having a higher status.
Let’s see from the other perspective. Human beings are a part of the natural world as any other species. No doubt human beings have their own outstanding faculties and qualities. They have their own highly developed senses, intelligence, consciousness and ability to communicate. But then other species too have their own particular and unique qualities, which human does not possess. Each and every species upon this earth, contribute in their own specific way for the totality of existence. All humans are born equal, irrespective of their class, status, education or wealth. They have the right to live irrespective of their usefulness to the society. It’s the same way as all species other than human have the right to be treated equally, irrespective of their usefulness towards humankind.
From this perspective, human beings are not masters of nature but we are friends of nature. The word friends can be used throughout two ways. Firstly we consider those whom we know as friends, because we are acquainted to them, we spend some time together and support each other in time of need. But then there is another meaning of friendship. When we feel empathy and offer our affection without expecting anything in return, then we are in a state of friendship. In this second meaning, the word friends is a sense of mutuality. When we are able to identify ourselves with the other without any sense of superiority or inferiority, then we create a condition of friendship.
Friendship is the purest and noblest kind of relationship. Friendship underpins the notion of non-violence and compassion. When we consider nature as our friends then we will never harm or exploit or damage them. We will receive the gifts given to us by nature with thanks and gratitude. We will return our gifts to them. Everything that we receive from nature – whether it is food, water, sunshine, or anything else – is a gift. This is the symbiotic relationship which equips us with humility, wonder and reverence. Nature is not there to be plundered or exploited rather it is there to be cherished and celebrated.
When we view existence with such an expanded consciousness then it is possible to open our eyes and learn “from” nature rather than learn “about” nature. Nature is the greatest teacher. We don’t need to go very far to learn from nature. Wherever we look with open eyes and a generous heart we will find nature as teacher. Look at the honeybee; we can learn the lessons of transformation from the humble bee. It takes a little nectar from here, a little nectar from there, but never too much from anywhere. Never ever has a flower complained that a honeybee has taken too much nectar away. In fact the flowers are grateful to the bee for helping them to pollinate. When the bee has taken nectar it does not waste; it transforms the nectar into sweet, delicious, healing honey. If human beings learnt to design their systems on the lines of the honeybee there would be no depletion, no waste and no pollution.