… all events seem to be mutually interdependent — an immense complexity of subtly balanced relationships which, like an endless knot, has no loose end from which it can be untangled and put in supposed order.”

Alan Watts, Nature Man & Woman

I remember hiking up Mauna Loa, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Slowly coming over a hill, I started having this eerie feeling creeping. It was a bizarre experience. There I was, in the middle of this majestic, strange, alien-like landscape, and deep within my being, something wasn’t right. It didn’t feel like danger though. It didn’t feel like I was being stalked by some animal or some weird ghost. It was more subtle than that. Like walking into a room you know and have been before, and feeling like something is missing. You don’t know what is. You can’t put your finger on it. You just know something isn’t right. That is what I felt. I stood there, my feet planted on the ground, head looking in all directions, trying to decipher this unpleasant gut sensation. After several minutes, I finally realized what it was – the silence. It wasn’t just a serene quietness, no. It was the absence of sound. There was no wind. No birds. No echo. No plane in the sky. No distant noise. Nothing. No even the slight hum of the earth. Nada. Even the whisper from my breath had disappeared. 

Self Portrait, view of Mauna Kea from Mauna Loa

You see, we are meant to experience and perceive the world. Our bodies are organisms created with a simple purpose, to process the information that surrounds us. Our senses exist really because there is something to sense. My ears wouldn’t exist if there was nothing to hear. My taste buds wound’t be if there was nothing to eat. My sight would have no purpose if there was nothing to see – which explains why creatures who live in deep dark caves loose their eyesight. My existence is confirmed not through my understanding of presence, but by the feedback I get from the outside. It is this reciprocity, these ongoing and nonstop relationships that confirm and create my reality. What our senses and bodies do is make it possible for us to situate ourselves in the world. By seeing what I see, hearing what I hear, and touching what I touch, I get to understand where I am, where I have been and where I am going. 

The eerie feeling I had on Mauna Loa was because I wasn’t hearing the world around me. I wasn’t getting any feedback. There wasn’t any reciprocity. It was like my radar was sending these radio waves and, with nothing to bounce back from, they just kept getting further and further away. 

Every time I inhale, every time I exhale, I am reminded of my interdependence in a reciprocal cycle that has been going on for millions of years. Each molecule that enters my body has been recycled billions of times, breathed in and breathed out by living and past species for eons, and will be for eons more.

My lungs are the embodiment of this reciprocity. Their main purpose is to connect me with the universe and with Nature, to take from it and give back. As much as one would want this to be a one-way relationship, it is simply impossible to exist without participating. Breathing in is taking from Nature and breathing out is giving back to Nature. The more I breathe in, the more I breathe out. The more I take, the more I give back.

What will happen to our bodies if we isolate and disconnect ourselves from the natural world? If the brain has evolved in the face of challenges to solve, if our capacity to learn exists only because of our necessity to adapt, then what will we become if we let technology do everything for us? If we forgo the sensuous realm of our senses, are we consequently setting the stage for their disappearance?

Excerpt from FEEL THE WILD

Today, individually and collectively we find ourselves in places where these relationships that previously defined our place and purpose have been put in question, broken or simply disappeared. Emails are unanswered. Projects are cancelled. Everything about the future is on hold. No one knows which direction to take or even it is worth it. Social media engagement is down and people are overwhelmed and tired. Overwhelmed by the amount of contradictory information that trends daily. Tired of being told we are stronger together, that there is something incredible to learn from those tragic times, when deep down we all want to scream: “Fuck! It sucks!!!”

Keynote at ATTA Annual Summit, Argentina

So we retreat and seek to find reciprocity much closer – with our family and with our community. Where one doesn’t need emails, contracts, or investments to feel appreciated. We volunteer. We take projects that give us swift gratification and satisfy our need for validation and purpose. We feel pride now in planting a garden instead of signing a multi million dollar contract. Then we go to bed at night asking ourselves big existential questions – what am I supposed to do? What is my purpose? Why am I doing this if there isn’t a world to receive and reciprocate. 

There is this minute moment when you throw something in the air, a place where that thing is neither rising nor falling. Where gravity and velocity come at a perfect equilibrium, creating a nanosecond of weightlessness, suspended in a state of MA – nothing behind, nothing in front, an ephemeral pause with endless possibilities (or questions). This is where we are today, in a crisis of reciprocity.

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