Some people talk about Gaia – about the Earth as a self-sustaining entity. But as a basis for believing that man is an essential part of the picture – well, that seems a wonky concept to me. Without a desired outcome other than a stable system – any planetary life is as good as another – liverworts and no people, for example.
And yet, and yet. Classical stoicism would say that the way for a man to behave is to be virtuous. He should let go of the notion that he can control things outside of himself. He cannot cannot control them and so the way forward is to be virtuous – “virtue is the only good” – and behave so as to be in accord with Nature.
Nature is seen as a flow or river and the trick of life is to be in tune with it. The way to confront life is to accept each moment as it presents itself. That necessitates not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or by fear of pain. Instead, one should use one’s mind to understand the world and to do one’s part in nature’s plan.
Modern stoicism says something different. The philosopher Lawrence Becker says that we only need to look around to see that:
“When we face the universe, we confront its indifference to us and our own insignificance to it. It takes no apparent notice of us, has no role other than Extra for us to play, no aim for us to follow.
I think that is a mistake. It is a mistake to take an attitude to Nature that denies us the intuition to go with the flow and the balance of nature. The science that set us outside of nature is part of what has resulted in the mess we are making of the planet.
So, whither planet Earth?