Updated: Feb 15, 2022
I just had the pleasure of watching an interview with eco-philosopher and environmentalist Derrick Jensen (The Myth of Human Supremacy and Deep Green Resistance) where he discussed some of the ideas that influenced him as he came to develop his life philosophy. If you have ever seen or heard Derrick speak, you know he is as interesting a human creature as they come. Sometimes his thoughts are developed in conversation, taking a circuitous route to a conclusion and establishing other unintended conclusions along the way, making a sophisticated argument but leaving you to wonder how in the hell he got us all there. As he chauffeurs us toward making his point, he will sidelight about something his mother said to him as a child or an incident that happened to him while in graduate school. He is fascinating and wonderfully crazy from his gazing off in the distance while talking to his disheveled hair and drop nose spectacles.
Derrick's interview revolved around the importance of The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings. If you're familiar with CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, you know their books are filled with interesting and provocative situations and dilemmas that are meant for pondering young minds but also have important relevance for all the rest of us. There certainly have been books that have shaped my worldview and helped to mold my life philosophy but there also have been other experiences that have brought me to this place. After all, we are the products of our life's experiences and books were certainly a major part of those experiences, as is likely true for most of you reading this. We can all look back and pinpoint times and events where enlightenment occurred but even though those events are significant, our world perspective is more likely a blend of events built upon each other. People, the arts, education - all types of experiences collect in our conscious and unconscious minds to form our unique view of the world.
Are we able to alter our world view by exposing ourselves to new and different perspectives? Sure! The guideposts seem to remain constant, however. If we possess the guidepost of compassion for example, though we may alter our viewpoint, we still use compassion as the judgmental factor, that is, we judge the information through the lens of compassion. If the information leads us toward a compassionate conclusion, we can more easily incorporate it into our psyche. So, these guideposts or lenses we use to make evaluations of new information are the philosophical foundations of our being. Unless an event completely alters our world where we throw out the established guideposts in favor of possibly opposite judgmental factors (compassion to greed, for example), we will continue to evaluate new information through our established lens.
Those of us in the environmental movement are obviously motivated by compassion. Expressions of compassion, as well as other judgmental guideposts, are exactly what is needed to help the planet heal and be the place where we all can live in harmony with all other living things. Selfishness and greed (as opposites of compassion) are what got us in the terrible mess we're now experiencing. Compassion will save us. It will save the plants and animals. It will become the standard of judgement for future activities by individuals, businesses and governments. We can all actively participate in the caring and concern. We can show in our everyday activities that we are compassionate, and compassion will point the way for others that such a lifestyle allows everyone (and every living thing) to benefit. Derrick Jensen knows this. Compassion is Derrick's guidepost. He lives compassion. We live compassion. The world needs Derrick and us to show how the compassion most of us have integrated into our being can bring about a better world and a higher quality of life.