SummaReview: The Lost Language of Plants

cover_LostLanguageOfPlantsThe Lost Language of Plants unveils a world (our world) that is both shocking and stimulating, spectacularly disturbing and deeply moving. In this world there are plants, yes, but the book is about much more than plants. As Buhner comments in a note to the reader, “…this book explores the complex, multidimensional, intricately interconnected, synergistic, living organism that we call Earth, and it is designed to be complex and multidimensional as well” (viii). The book itself intentionally transmits multiple layers of communication, reflective of the plants and living organisms that are featured throughout.

He describes how plants communicate using self-generated natural chemicals—affecting, directing, and responding to the environments and communities that they live in. Unfortunately, our global environment has become completely inundated with trace amounts of pharmaceutical chemicals, radioactive materials, and medical, infectious and pathological waste, all of which significantly disrupt the healthy function of ecosystems (including human ecologies). Beyond that, he urges us to see that the simplification of species in ecosystems worldwide dangerously reduces the regenerative capacity of Earth’s ecosystems, and has grave consequences for human health; human health is inextricably tied to the health of ecosystems worldwide.

Man sees the morning as the beginning of a new day; he takes germination as the start in the life of a plant, and withering as its end. But this is nothing more than a biased judgment on his part. Nature is one. There is no starting point or destination, only an unending flux, a continuous metamorphosis of all things.
–Masanobu Fukuoka (148)

The mountain of devastating and publicly available data and statistics about the environmental impacts of technological medicine highlights deeper issues of our modern predicament; these deeper issues have to do with the reductive and mechanistic paradigms, epistemologies, and concepts that we use to understand and interact with the world; this includes the “universe-as-machine” metaphor, which denies the possibility of intelligence, self-awareness, and sanctity in the non-human organisms of Earth.

Ironwood Archepelago

The Ironwood archepelago exemplifies the non-linear affects of the language of plants on ecosystem function.

By describing the systemic and multi-functional uses of plant chemistry throughout Earth’s ecosystems, Buhner makes the case that the chemical language of plants is much more than mere chemistry; it is an intentionally meaningful language that is crucial for maintaining the health of ecosystems. The “lost” language of plants, then, has more to do with the loss of meaning ascribed by humans to the world around us. In other words,  “this book delves into the meaning embedded within plant chemistry, the language of plants—a language human beings in the Western world lost knowledge of when we began to think so insistently with the analytical portions of our brains and quit thinking with other more holistic parts of ourselves” (ix). Thus, what is deeply needed is for us to recover the innate capacity to understand the world as a living system. This means interacting with the land as a sacred place, filled with sacred beings. It’s the foundation for healing the interior and exterior wounds created by the “universe-as-machine” mentality.

“Without deep connection to the land our healers remain anthropocentric—human centered—in their approaches, their theories of human health generated in isolation from the environment with which we evolved. They contain the same category error that all reductionist sciences contain. The solution is reconnection to the natural world and the living intelligence of land” (230).

Citations

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Senior Capstone Reflections

Create a list of three broad principles or themes from your field of study and three broad interdisciplinary principles or themes from Maharishi’s Science of Consciousness that help to inform your field and its connection to the whole of knowledge.

1&2) Sustainable Living Principle – Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste. This entails designing systems from the ground up and/or retrofitting old wasteful systems so that energy and resource outputs from one process feed into and support another process or function. This is a thoroughly intentional way of designing, so the consciousness of the designer is paramount.

Thus, we see a connection with Maharishi’s Science of Creative Intelligence in the principle: “Outer depends on inner.” This principle applies to the individual life by the way in which our interpretation of the reality that we experience moment to moment is largely contingent upon the state of one’s “inner” condition – the way the brain has been structured up to that point, and the paradigms from which each person’s worldview is constructed. On the collective level we see that the structure of society stems from the consciousness of the architects of that society. We now see the obvious shortcomings of current systems built out of ignorance of the need to conserve resources, recycle everything, and produce no waste.
3&4) Sustainable Living Principle – Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides. In the field of Sustainable Living, diversity – whether referring to the variety of plants in a garden or field, sources of energy production in the region, or our social atmosphere and culture – are seen as assets that make a system more resilient. For example, an uncontrollable variation in a weather pattern like drought will not be as devastating to the farmer if he has a variety of crops with different levels of tolerance to drought.

Likewise, the SCI principle: ​”Harmony exists in diversity” supports this understanding in my field because it recognizes the underlying strength in diversity. Harmony is complementary, collaborative, and improves a given situation. The presence of harmony is a sign that things are working well, and in Sustainable Living we seek to design systems that harness the power of diversity to optimize function.

5&6) Sustainable Living Principle – Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other. This is related to the principle of diversity, but it also points to a reality that all things are connected, and when we try to segregate and treat things as independent of each other our results inevitably fail and produce undesirable effects. When things are integrated we see that the relationships between them produce emergent properties and gain a greater status as something more highly developed than the parts themselves. Additionally by seeking integration in all areas of life we become more focused on the underlying unity of all things.

​”The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” ​ is an obvious principle connected to this idea. The reality of wholeness is different than the conglomeration of individuals. This can be seen in medicine, where the special healing properties of a medicinal plant are not fully present in the isolated chemical or chemical compound that is synthesized in the lab. The interaction of energy that happens when things are in relationship creates a special “extra” something that does not exist without the interaction or relationship.