Observing the Whole
I would like to continue with an example that is as instructive as it is astonishing. With the spread of industrial animal husbandry, things have gotten so out of hand that we have heard new concepts we have never heard of. The most famous of these is the free-range chicken. It brings with it a curious answer; is there a chicken that doesn’t roam? No! Because chickens, like all bodies, need to move and move around for their physical health and “self-actualization”. In industrial livestock farming, however, chickens are unable to breathe freely. When it became clear that this gloomy environment in which the chickens were living affected not only them but also those who benefited from them, it was realized that a different kind of animal husbandry awareness was needed and a funny name was found for it: “wandering chicken”. Isn’t that as absurd as “breathing human being”?
Apart from morality, I think it was the changes in the bodies and eggs of the chickens as a result of their restricted movement and unnatural diet that led us back to traditional breeding. In industrial farming, where fertility is replaced by increased yield, the fat content of chicken has increased tenfold. This is reflected in increased morbidity for those who benefit from them. The situation is similar with sheep, goats and cattle, with which we have lived together for thousands of years. There is research showing that the fat content in the bodies of these animals, which have been removed from pastures and their natural diet as a result of industrial farming, has changed in a way that can lead to atherosclerosis in humans. The same is true for farmed fisheries. It is as if we have neglected to think about the well-being and welfare of these creatures with whom we have walked for thousands of years and who have contributed so much to the continuation of our species. Rather than saying that you reap what you sow, I feel like saying that if others are good, we are good, or do good and find good. Realizing that it is our eternal duty to care for the whole.
Plants are among our companions in this world. When we look at the world of plants, which facilitate our work in many areas such as nutrition, shelter, covering and health, we see that they also have their own companions. In studies on soil, the most ancient friend and even the mother of plants, researchers have put forward a new example of sharing and solidarity and named it the soil food web. It was understood that soil is not just a pile of minerals, but a living organism with a network of bacteria, fungi, organic matter, protozoa, arthropods, animals and plants. In other words, we have arrived at the fact that there is a unity formed by a wide variety of beings with very different characteristics (I guess we could call this a vocation). A whole in which each one can remain stronger and healthier in this solidarity and balance rather than in isolation. Fungi form a communication network with a strong mycelium network. They are rewarded for this service they provide from a human perspective in the form of food. The pH of the soil remains in balance thanks to the acidification of fungi as opposed to the alkalization of the environment by bacteria. Again, when order is restored through a medium of opposites, disease is suppressed, or in other words, when order is in balance, there is no disease. In this way the soil stores nutrients, toxins are broken down and removed, and water retention increases. Doesn’t it look a lot like a body made up of a diverse collection of cells? When plants are at their best, doesn’t that mean that those who benefit from them are also at their best? So those we walk with on the road are directly related to those we walk with. We are connected to every single life that makes up the soil food web, together we are a whole.
We now know that trees also communicate with each other, sharing nutrients and information. They are among those we have walked with on our long journey. Research in Japan in the early 2000s revealed another dimension of our relationship with trees. Through the fatty acids called phytoncides, which they secrete for their own healing, they have been shown to contribute to the healing of diseases such as hypertension, cancer and depression, as well as sleep and stress disorders in humans. They have been shown to increase the activity of our NK (natural killer) cells, which clear cancerous and virus-infected cells from the body, and this effect lasts for a month. With a budget of four million dollars, 62 trees have been identified in relation to human healing. After this information came to light, healing tours were organized under the name of forest bathing. We are in a realm we call nature, just like a cell in a body. We need cooperation and solidarity with the rest of this body, in fact it is indispensable.
One author describes it with the metaphor of vitamin N (inspired by the first letter of the English word nature). There are studies showing that a mycobacterium species found in soil facilitates learning in children and a lactobacillus species prevents depression. Some studies show astonishing differences between children who have direct contact with the soil and those who do not. We are in a distancing process that has led to the emergence of an absurd concept of exposure to nature similar to the example of free-range chicken. Moving away from the realization of what we are a part of seems to take us away from it. However, we need the rest of the whole by virtue of being a part of it, because we owe our own integrity to this unity. When we are with him, our psychological state is positive, our immune system is strengthened, our body is in order.
While some researchers define feeling the universe and God as a biological need, we unconsciously oppose the order, we make things harder rather than easier, we row against the current, as if in an effort to separate from the realm of which we are a part. In this defiance of order, we invite illness, as the words dis-ease and dis-order describe so well. On the other hand, research indicates that we constantly perceive our environment through structures in our cell membranes that can be likened to a kind of antenna, and that protein synthesis, which is the basis of cell functionality, changes according to environmental conditions. Our genes are activated or deactivated by environmental conditions. In a sense, we harbor viruses in our DNA, which are the causative agents of viral diseases that humans have been suffering from since the beginning of time. Would I be out of line if I interpreted this as an innate sensitivity to our environment? Doesn’t the effort to disconnect from our environment by not realizing that we are so sensitive to our environment make things difficult?
We are so one with the whole universe, we are its only part. Whenever I realize the magnificence of the unity and order in the universe of which we are a unique part, my favorite emotion accompanies me: amazement. The sages do not need to know the details I have mentioned in this article. For the uninitiated, it seems to me that such details are essential for us to realize the magnificent order and unity we are in. We are surrounded by all kinds of signs and evidence. Opportunities for us to enjoy its unity and greatness as we find and understand it. Let us increase our amazement and zeal by sharing what we find and realize at every opportunity, insha’Allah.