Dominating nature through monocultural thinking destroys resilience; learning from nature improves it.
By Giles Hutchins
Proportions and patterns run throughout our world and cosmos. It is as if there is a grammar of harmony running through all of life we would do well to become conscious of. As HRH The Prince of Wales notes in his book Harmony, “The closer we dance to the rhythms and patterns that lie within us, the closer we get to acting in what is the right way.”
The Golden Section
The Golden Section (also referred to as the Golden Ratio) is one such reciprocal relationship we find throughout nature. The Golden Section is where the smaller part stands in the same proportion to the large part as the large part stands to the whole.
The reciprocity of this relationship is found in music, architecture, flowers, our bones, credit card design, you name it. Where it exists, it provides something naturally pleasing to the human senses—a harmony. The harmonics in music derive from this same reciprocal relationship. This is also where the Fibonacci Series originates and the Golden Mean, Phi. It frequents organic growth, as if the emergence within life itself follows this harmony.
Communion of Rhythms
What is sometimes overlooked in seeing these harmonious patterns is that there is a communion of complementary but differing rhythms within these proportions and patterns; for example, the relationship between the major and minor scales in music, the relationship of the sun and moon, yin and yang, etc.
This communion of differing relationships is vital to life – an opposing yet synergistic energy that drives organic growth. This is what Gyorgy Doczi in his book The Power of Limits refers to as Dinergy (his own word created by combining the Greek “dia” – meaning across, through, opposing – and “energy”) rather than synergy, as it is the attuning of differing tensions, which create this Dinergy.
This goes directly to the root of one of life’s perplexing paradoxes exploring why we have a yin and a yang duality in life. The creative tension between these seemingly opposing forces is what drives organic growth and breathes life.
The word harmony has its root in the Latin ‘harmonia,’ which means, “to fit together.” Diverse influences integrate in a way that creates the harmonious “music of life” – a pleasant attuning of differences. The attuning rhythm or blend these harmonizing tensions provide triggers the experience of beauty within us.
Doczi insightfully recognizes it is the limits within Nature, the perceived boundaries or thresholds, which allows for these proportions and combinations to create. As Hunter Lovins put it, “Nature uses limits as the crucible within which it creates.” It is what Doczi calls the “power of limits” – the force behind creation.
In sharing one’s limitations with another we complement each other, in turn creating diversity, which breeds and supports more life. In other words, limitations are both restrictive and creative.
Limits Are Freeing
Nature, operating within restraints, creates limitless varieties – from thresholds comes creativity, from restrictions comes diversity. Doczi notes:
“When we share our own limitations with the limitations of others, as we do in the golden relations of neighbors, we complement our own and others’ shortcomings, creating thereby living harmony in the art of life, comparable to the harmonies created in music, dance, marble, wood and clay. It is possible to live in this way because the proportions of reciprocal sharing, nature’s own golden proportions, are built into our own nature, into our bodies and minds which are, after all, part of nature.”
And so we can understand that the creation of beauty is through the dynamic communion of reciprocal influences powered by limits.
Reciprocity, Not Domination
Just as “dia” means across or through boundaries, it is the relationship across these tensions that makes for our reality. There is no binary either/or, rather there is only the challenge/opportunity to find the right harmonic within, across, in-between, through the tension.
In certain life situations a little more yang than yin may be useful, in others a little more yin than yang. It is only when one side of the reciprocal relationship begins to undermine the reciprocity in trying to maintain dominance over the other the dinergic relationship becomes dis-harmonious.
Monoculture Destroys Resilience
In our desire to dominate nature (including our own human nature) we have created monocultures. Environmentalist Vandana Shiva points to a “monoculture of the mind” that poisons our culture, which in turn destroys our natural environment. Monoculture and monopoly equals control.
In seeking to homogenize nature for commercialization, we set about dissecting the inherent grammar within life and so creating dis-harmony rather than harmony. As HRH The Prince of Wales notes, “Nature displays a tendency towards variety and away from uniformity and yet we seem to be heading in the opposite direction.”
Biodiversity and cultural diversity have shaped one another over the millennia; as we curtail diversity through elitist competition and control we undermine our culture’s resilience. Life ought to be about celebrating diversity: creativity powered by limits is the wisdom of nature. Nature’s inspiring fecundity is to be attuned with not dominated and enslaved.
As Seneca noted many centuries ago, “True wisdom consists in not departing from nature and in molding our conduct according to Her laws and model.”