Red in tooth and claw

 

I watched the BBC documentary Walking with Prehistoric Beasts last night, about the evolution of mammals from the demise of dinosaurs and up to today.

Since I was a kid, I have enjoyed nature documentaries. And since I got into systems theories in my mid-teens, I have been aware of the discrepancy between how many of them are made and what I would like to see.

Here is a simple and very general way to look at it, using the levels of consciousness outlined in the aqal model:

First tier documentaries

Nature documentaries can be seen as inherently orange or beyond. They draw on information, views, models, findings from orange level – or beyond – science.

At the same time, nature documentaries are often presented with lots of red or below mixed in, with a dramatic and sometimes exclusive emphasis on nature red in tooth and claw, dramatic struggles, everyone for themselves, and so on. (Even some of the BBC documentaries do this… which makes it look a little silly, as if twelve year old boys were the only audience for these programs.)

What we don’t see as much yet are documentaries that take a green and beyond view: looking at cooperation, partnerships and symbiosis, at whole systems dynamics, at ecosystems and ecoregions as fluid wholes of matter, energy and patterns, of which individuals are just temporary forms, aspects and expressions.

Of course, if we look at nonhuman species, we will see a lot of the early levels (in particular infrared) as that’s where they are at, so it certainly needs to be included. But it can still be presented within orange, green and second tier frameworks. A few documentaries already do this, and it may be more common in the near future.

I wonder what a blue take on nature documentaries would look? If religious fundamentalist, it would of course conform to whatever story told within their tradition.

Second tier documentaries

A second tier take on nature documentaries seems far more interesting, probably even for many first tier folks. Second tier takes on nature have the potential to easily be rich, fluid, engaging and thoroughly entertaining.

It would include a wide range of perspectives and levels, fluidly shifting among them and weaving them together into a more integral view.

It could use current science and an integral model (for instance aqal) as the overall framework.

And then include any or all of these…

Nature red in tooth and claw. The struggle for survival. The birth, survival, procreation and death of individuals.

Views on nature from various cultures and religious traditions. How do we humans relate to and view nature, filtered through a wide range of cultures and traditions?

How has scientific methodology and views shifted over time?

Cooperation, partnership and symbiosis in nature. An emphasis on communities within and among species, rather than individuals.

The views from ecopsychology and evolutionary psychology. How can an evolutionary perspective help us understand how humans function today? What role does nature play in our sense of belonging, quality of life and health?

Where is evolution going? What can we tell from past patterns? Where are current evolutionary nudges taking us as a planet and species?

A systems and holarchical view, looking at individuals, ecosystems, the Earth, the Universe as wholes within wholes. Each as temporary expressions of their subsystems and larger systems.

And if they were really brave: all of this as Ground or Spirit, as the many manifestations of Ground, as the evolution of form within and as Ground. As the form aspect of God evolving over time into more and more complex forms and expressions of consciousness. This is all emptiness dancing, and dancing in a way that appears to itself as evolution.

This is an approach that would offer something to just about anyone, and it would also offer something to each of these levels and areas in each of us.

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