When I was in grade school, the popular mantra about nutrition was: “You are what you eat.” The point, of course, was that one’s body was ultimately made up of whatever component parts (i.e., vitamins and minerals, etc.) of the food the person ingested. As a kid, this was an abstract concept to me. I couldn’t really wrap my head around the idea that if I ate a carrot, I was a carrot. Though I have the understanding of this concept as an adult, this is hardly sufficient if we are to understand our embodied selves literally from a universal perspective.
Carl Sagan famously said in 1980 that: “The cosmos is also within us, we’re made of star stuff.” The elements that make up the Earth as well as these “earth suits” (i.e., bodies), which we inhabit, are from and of the universe. Expanding on this point, Barbara Marx Hubbard believed that our DNA is encoded with the pattern of evolution. Thus, human beings are not just materially sourced from the universe, we are endowed with the intelligence of it.
As literal earthlings we exist on this planet, which supports life as we now experience it. Our bodies’ foremost physical requirement is oxygen; without it, we will die in a matter of minutes. Our next physical requirement is for water; without it, we will die within days. Then our next physical requirement is for food; without it, we will die within weeks. As well, we thrive mentally and emotionally in relationship with other human beings. Oneness, then, is more than a spiritual concept. It is a biological truth that we are all interrelated, interconnected, and interdependent with one another and with all life on the Earth.
With this holistic understanding of oneness, it’s not a far stretch to conclude that the more we compromise our air, water, and food by polluting it; and the more we dismiss the necessity of healthy human relationships in the name of progress or profit, the more quickly we are compromising the Earth’s health as well as our own. Human well-being is directly connected to the Earth’s and to humanity’s well-being. It is impossible, even insane, to separate these.
Barbara Marx Hubbard famously asked President Eisenhower in the wake of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II: “What is the meaning of all our technological power that is good?” To her amazement, even distress, he could only answer “I don’t know.” This was the personal turning point that set Barbara on her quest to find, encourage, and publicize those innovations that contributed to answering her question in the affirmative.
Returning to the notion of “you are what you eat” (or ingest), our bodies’ lungs will become polluted if the air is polluted; our blood, lymph and other fluids will become polluted if the water is polluted; our stomachs, muscles, bones and tissues will become polluted if the food is polluted. The Earth is a divinely-designed and finely-tuned ecosystem. Because we are of the Earth and indeed we are what we eat, our bodies are individual expressions of the same ecosystem.
The power of human intelligence, innovation, and technology that is developed and applied in the interest of short-term gain has been detrimental to our continued existence on Earth. As Barbara and many others have put it, humanity has reached the “choice point” or the “tipping point.” We have created a crisis that nevertheless presents us with an opportunity. Barbara believed that our crisis is – or at the very least can be – a birth of a new humanity, literally a new species that she called homo universalis, a universal humanity.
We can only become homo universalis through conscious evolution. That is, we have a choice to use our intelligence and our power for the absolute and altruistic good. Planetary health can only be assured and renewed through a social potential movement, which recognizes the exponential power of “WE” above and beyond the limited individual power of “me.” Author and economist David Korten calls this the shift from being ego-centric to eco-centric.
The realization of planetary health requires us to do a planetary detoxification. The EGO-centric homo sapiens have obsessed for centuries over the acquisition of junk – the creation, binging and hoarding of the material. We have lived under the illusion that the more junk we have, the better off and more secure we will be. Instead we have compromised our planetary environment by producing and disposing of all this junk, just as we have compromised our human bodies and our minds in the consumption of all this junk.
Yet, both the hope and the choice are more present than ever that the ECO-centric homo universalis will consciously detoxify the Earth, as well as our bodies. It is our choice to emerge as a universal humanity, which will provide the affirmative answer to Barbara’s question from all those years ago: “What is the meaning of all of our technological power that is good?” It means we not only survive but we thrive and we evolve, according to the pattern of evolution as it’s encoded in the universe.