How do I find vitality in life

Be alive!

The power of vision The »Earth Age of Man« challenges us to a new ethic. By Andreas Weber, Hildegard Kurt, published in issue # 33/2015

A new idea of ​​man is spreading. In it the human being is no longer thought of as confronting nature, but has permeated it completely. Traces of pesticides, nuclear fallout, nitrogen fertilizers can be found today in the crystals of the Arctic and in the soils of the Amazon. Climate change at the latest shows that humans are inescapably intertwined with the earth. That is the message in the »Anthropocene«, the earth epoch of man.
"Anthropocene", a young term from the chemist Paul J. Crutzen, continues the geological designation of the geological ages: The Holocene is over, and in the meantime humans dominate the earth's balance to an extent that invalidates the previous conception of nature. Since the origins of western civilization in antiquity and their first massive interventions in the landscape, according to the observation that founded the Anthropocene, human culture has developed into a decisive geological force.
The separation between nature and spirit, which has been made since antiquity, at the latest since the Enlightenment, was officially declared ended in the Anthropocene. In the new geological epoch, in which the cultural is transforming everything that has become, what we have created and how we control it is presented to many people as the only reality.
The dualism that determined our thinking and acting for 250 years is officially over. We should celebrate this as salvation. Because the division into soulless resources and acting people made the current catastrophe that we are causing in the biosphere of the planet possible.
Ironically, technology and science overcame dualism because they insisted on it so unconditionally. For a long time our civilization believed that the earth was an object with which it could deal with at will. Inadvertently, it has thus provided evidence to the contrary. But there is no redemption. Because the way in which the alleged reconciliation between man and nature takes place - namely as a universal victory of culture - once again destroys the chance to understand and protect life.
On the horizon of the Anthropocene, people cling to the modern industrialist image of man, to Homo faber, who creates technical means to cope with nature. The "Green Economy" also continues this. Here, too, the household of beings is understood as something human-cultural, namely as an economy that is organized according to efficiency and scarcity. This assumption colonizes the individual experience of existence of living subjects. It turns beings into means and destroys the practice of many communities of viewing the environment with which they are connected not as a resource to be exploited but as a source of life that creates an identity.
Anyone who thinks nature and man reconciled simply because technology dominates the earth and because we have recognized that cultural imagination has always shaped our image of life disregards the fact that every material exchange inevitably changes the possibilities of experience in this world. He overlooks that there is nothing living that has no inside.

Towards liveliness
Many problems in our culture have a common origin: we see the world as something dead. The mainstream in science, economics, politics and education follows the view that the world is a cybernetic connection of inanimate building blocks - there is no limit to the way we can improve this connection by analyzing this connection, reducing it to its elements and taking technical, economic or ecological measures.
More and more researchers and philosophers are increasingly understanding reality as a network of mutually transforming, meaningful, subjectively tangible connections. The world is not a mechanism based on efficiency, but a process of creative relationships and interpenetrations on the way to experience and expression. This view is not a utopia. It is beginning to assert itself in the current revolution in biological thinking, the scope of which is comparable to the revolutions triggered in physics by the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Man and nature are one because creative imagination and feeling expression are natural forces.
When we experience the world as alive, it becomes impossible to continue to shape our relationships with one another and with matter as the exploitation of resources. The Anthropocene can only be survived if we understand that not only humans permeate nature, but that something defines us that is not anthropogenic: our self-organizing, in terms incomprehensible, liveliness woven into the reality of ecosystems. The most important task in the Anthropocene is to rethink and recreate liveliness.

What man can be
Looking at a civilization that is truly ecological and - inseparable from it! - if it were also truly humane, cultivating our "humana" - our specifically human characteristics and abilities - deserves the status of a global educational task. After all, what use is all scientific and technical potential when the decisive factor has been buried: the access to that center in man, in which everything living and creative tries to reach self-awareness? This can be called the soul, the heart, with Erich Fromm the “spiritual nature” of man or with Gary Snyder the irreducible “wildness” that underlies all living things.
The Anthropocene, as it has been mostly thought so far, is deeply anthropocentric. The cosmos in the Anthropocene explicitly revolves around humans. Even if its advocates often strive for the opposite, the human, the culture, should form the center of all reality in the future. This anthropocentrism - not to be forgotten: of occidental origin - is a weak but at the same time fatal substitute for the fact that industrialized people, forgetting the living as the always present central dimension of all being, have lost themselves with this buried center. Without a thorough revision of the image of man - and thus of the image of life - of industrial modernity, anthropocentrism will experience further devastating increases in the Anthropocene.
In humans, vitality also manifests itself as awareness. The freedom that is imposed on all living things becomes his task. From this our responsibility for life results. The current stage of the common history of earth and man calls for the development and cultivation of a new practice of acting-in-connectedness, in which freedom and responsibility can be brought into a new balance. Only a society that began to practice, to reintegrate itself into living being by virtue of the insight gained from freedom, would really try to complete the Enlightenment - and convert the "enlightenment" into an "enlivenment".
An ecologically and socially just future in the Anthropocene can only exist on the basis of an emphatic self-understanding. "Emphatic" here means to believe in one's own development ability: in the fact that it is possible to develop skills that are predominantly in the potential area - empathy, a sense of justice, a sense of proportion, mindfulness, imagination, the power of relationships and the ability to be peaceful . All of this does not decrease with use, but increases. But these abilities are only available to the extent that they are perceived and developed. They also multiply simply by sharing them.

A politics of life
We can only rethink sustainability from this perspective. Today, of course, the term has been used up by the technical understanding of resource efficiency. But in an understanding that is possible on the horizon of the Anthropocene, it is filled with that struggle for a connection between freedom and responsibility, which is not only a technocratic problem, but results as an ethos of an existential attitude.
Helping cultures of vitality to develop is an epoch-making political project and a civilizational vision that goes beyond managing crises and navigating day-to-day politics with its inability to integrate major challenges such as climate change. Let's call this vision a politics of life. This is based on the idea of ​​a civilization whose principles, institutions and economic practices follow the principle that there is liveliness. This ethos is not achievable in the short term. It requires an effort comparable to that for the enforcement of human rights.
This time, however, it is not just about the redemption of the thinking subject from immaturity, but about the liberation of the embodied subject from disempowerment through machine thinking. The goal of a politics of life is that all beings without exception should have the right to be alive, and that means to be able to be completely themselves and at the same time completely in connection. Such a task can only be solved through a commitment that has been carried on for many generations in a deep solidarity.
The political agenda of the Enlightenment tried to end the incapacitation of the rationally thought of Anthropos. A politics of life extends this liberation to the freedom of the creative anthropus, capable of compassionate responsibility, from submission to an ideology of the dead.
A politics of life not only upholds the values ​​of the Enlightenment - the dignity of the individual and the principles of justice and equality - but connects them with their roots, which rest in the co-creation of all living things. A politics of life seeks alternatives to the dogma of growth and consumerism. It does not rely on technical control, but makes liveliness tangible. It enables material productivity through ecological stability, and this through meaningful action. A politics of life makes what implicitly keeps us alive, explicit. It is plural, dialogical, mediating. It takes responsibility for reality and supports us on the way to ourselves. Only in this solidarity with everything that is alive does the Anthropocene become a human time that deserves its name. •

From: »Be liveliness! For a politics of life. A Manifesto for the Anthropocene «, thinkOya, 2015. The publication is the prelude to» Exploratory journeys in cultures of vitality «:

Andreas Weber (47) studied biology and philosophy and did his doctorate with Hartmut Böhme and Francisco Varela on nature as meaning. As a freelance journalist, he researches the poetics of the living and regularly publishes articles in magazines and journals. In 2010 he was awarded the Reporter's Prize for the report »Let them out!« Published in GEO. In 2014 he published »Lebendigkeit. Eine Erotic Ecology «, 2015 by Matthes & Seitz» Enlivenment. A culture of life «. Andreas Weber has two children and lives in Berlin and Italy.

Hildegard Kurt(56), holds a doctorate in cultural studies, works as an author, speaker and initiator of art projects. In her work, as well as in practice, she combines the expanded understanding of art - "every person is an artist" (Beuys) - with the model of liveliness. She lives in Berlin, where in 2004 she co-founded the "und.Institute for Art, Culture and Sustainability". In 2010 »Wachsen! About the Spiritual in Sustainability ", 2014 at thinkOya the joint work" The red flower "written with Shelley Sacks. Aesthetic Practice in Times of Change «.


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