Creating Coexistence

In the human empire we’ve built on domination and separation from the natural world, moments like this make me wonder — what have we we sacrificed to feel comfortable?

Sometimes, the ocean creates moments of joy that feel impossible to put into words  — but I think its greatest magic is the way it leaves us speechless.

It’s beautiful and inspiring how observing another creature can teach us so much about ourselves. Such is the gift that transpired when we were greeted by this inquisitive turtle on a recent freedive, emerging from its feeding routine to check us out. It was so inquisitive and calm, swimming directly up to my camera, its big black eyes filled with mystery and thoughts I could never understand. Gentleness and grace permeated its entire being; even eating sea grass off the bottom was done in the most delicate, mindful way. I watched in admiration for this creature that seemed so acutely aware of its impact on its surroundings, wondering what the world might be like if humans were more like turtles in this way.

As particularly violent winds and swell surrendered me to the power of the reef, even the turtle occasionally lost its balance, struggling back to a state of perfected grace — both of us at the mercy of an ocean we could never control. Our swirling disarray felt like the perfect metaphor for the broader circumstances we all face, at the mercy of a life as powerful and unpredictable as a giant ocean — it’s much more meaningful when we have each other. 

But in the human empire we’ve built on domination and separation from each other and the natural world, moments like this make me wonder — what have we we sacrificed in our journey to feel comfortable — and are we actually comfortable, or just deeply disconnected? Our rise to unprecedented power has generated technology, wealth, and modern luxury unknown to any other creature on Earth, and yet, we seem numb to the world’s great gifts of compassion and connection. It’s like we’ve forgotten how to coexist. The natural world is an abused externality — as we shift between bubbles, from cars to houses to shops and our jobs, realizing only through pandemics, bushfires and disasters of biblical proportions, that we are not free from the biology and physics that govern us all. Theoretically, we could live in a purely human world devoid of other creatures — but I’d rather live in a world built on compassion and coexistence, than sequester within a lonely human void. 

Our ultimate goal was insulation from natural hazards, but ironically, they only seem to be getting worse. Perhaps we need a different discourse — not control and separation, but connection and understanding. A shift away from the lonely vacuum of life we’ve created within our bubbles, towards the idea that life coexists and is shared. 

It is a basic lesson of ecology that what befalls one of us, befalls us all. There is no immunity from the shared fate of our collective existence. It’s time to let go — and, like a turtle that has achieved the highest state of grace in swirling currents and an unforgiving ocean, find beauty and peace in what cannot be controlled. 

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