What makes life meaningful? Meaning comes from connection and interconnection but our dominant culture is one of separation from the rest of life. How do we then find meaning through connection? We talk about all of this and more this week with Jeremy Lent, author of The Web of Meaning.
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Jeremy Lent is an author and speaker whose work investigates the underlying causes of our civilization’s existential crisis and explores pathways toward a life-affirming future.
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Transcript of this episode:
*This is an auto-generated transcript*
 The Power of Meaning & Interconnection – Jeremy Lent
[00:00:00] Hunter: All right. Your book, the web of meaning is this big synthesis of a lot of ideas. And you weave them together. So I’m just for the sake of the listener, cuz I’ve read it. But how do you describe when people ask you the question about what your book is about? What, how do you answer that question?
[00:00:26] Jeremy Lent: Yeah. Basically what I think the book is about is recognizing how so many of the assumptions that we make about how we make sense of the world that we just receive from our dominant worldview. So many of those assumptions are wrong. And we don’t realize that until we start to explore them more.
And once we see how the, some of these basic assumptions, what we call our worldview are wrong. What the book does, it shows how there is a different way of making sense of our lives and of reality, a way that is based much more on interconnectedness. And it explores the profound implications of looking, starting to look at the world from that different way of understanding things.
[00:01:13] Hunter: So that’s beautifully said, I love that. And you’d also describe this kind of conversation that we all seem to have, where and I, where. You may have some hopeful vision for the future you have some, crochety old family member says let me tell you how the world is.
Exactly. Everybody’s selfish and it all works, cuz we’re all selfish and you just feel at least me, I feel like. Oh, and occasionally I don’t really know what to say to that. And I’m just like, it leaves me feel icky. And, but you talk about how that those are one of those dominant worldviews that we really can call into question that has.
That doesn’t, there’s some strong arguments against
[00:02:01] Jeremy Lent: that, right? Yeah. Yeah. So in fact the book begins with just this kind of scenario. I call that the conversation the conversation with the capital C kind of thing, because it’s one, just like you say, under that, we’ve all had a different points in time and maybe we have it within ourselves too.
And it it goes like this. I call this character, this crotchety old Bob. And it’s like a tea party and someone’s saying, oh, we can make the world so much of a better place. And uncle Bob comes around and says, let me tell you something. When you’ve been around the block a few times, like I have you’ll learn, just like you’re saying, basically forget about all these ideas.
We’re all selfish. And that’s how, why I, our system works so well, capitalism because it just basically takes everyone’s selfishness and it makes it. Work most effectively. So it’s the best system we’ve got. And we used technology to make progress and things are so much better than they used to be.
So yeah, just, just, we’ve got problems like climate change, we’ll fix it. Don’t you worry with technology? And that’s just the way the world is. So all the air goes out of these ideas and you go, oh, okay. Yeah, I don’t really have much to say to that. And that’s so powerful because it’s not just some crochety old uncle who says that, but basically every time we turn on the news, every time we get we just watch an ad on TV.
Every time we look at some sort of thing coming us at us from from the internet or whatever. Even though those are not explicit statements that are made. They underlie pretty much every message we receive. And that’s why it’s so hard to argue against those ideas,
[00:03:45] Hunter: but you have wonderful arguments against those and I love I love what you, the way you talk about this idea of cooperation versus.
Selfishness and we all know the idea that, survival of the fittest and that genes are, that, we’ve heard the idea of the selfish gene and that everybody’s just trying for survival. And that is true to some extent, but there’s also a lot of great argument for actually quite innate cooperation.
Like even. Cellular level at a VI at a biological level in the plant world, in the animal world, in humans. Talk to us about some of those places where you
[00:04:34] Jeremy Lent: see that, and that’s a key theme in the book and pretty much. All of us have come across this notion of the selfish gene.
And that was an idea that got put out by a biologist Richard Dawkins way back in the seventies. And he wrote this book called the selfish gene and it got, so it, it seemed like such a simple and powerful idea that now it we just take that must be science, right? That’s what science tells us.
That’s what evolution is all about. That selfish genes dominate everything. Evolution is just as productive out competing each other. And this is what’s so fascinating is that, oh, for decades now in biology, what people have uncovered is that the opposite is true. It’s not that there’s no selfishness in nature, but it turns out that actually evolution is the big steps in evolution.
Like all the way. If you look back over billions of years from when there. What just very simple cells to complex cells, to multicellular organisms and then animals and ultimately humans. Every one of these big steps in evolution took place, not through one set of genes saying, I’m gonna be better than you.
I’m gonna outcompete you. But the opposite by actually two different entities looking, being specializing in something and saying, oh, if we work together, And what’s called mutually beneficial symbiosis. If we work together symbiotically with this other entity, we can actually do something that is good for each of us.
So rather than taking advantage of it’s like each one goes, I can offer you this specialty. You offer me that. And we can figure out how to do something that’s benefit for all of us. So it’s not a zero sum game and that’s. Evolutionary biologists now recognize is what led to this beautiful abundance and complexity of life on earth.
There was one biologist that said life. Did what it did not. It took over the world, not by competition, but by networking. So that’s a very powerful, different way of understanding things, which is scientifically valid, but overturns this whole notion that is all about competi.
[00:06:44] Hunter: It’s so fascinating to think that it’s even down at the cellular loader level, but to make it more tangible for people.
Are the, can you give us some examples, like in the animal world or the plant kingdom where that’s yeah,
[00:06:57] Jeremy Lent: sure. The simple thing to do is imagine you’re just walking in a forest, just, and it looks. This is just what we are used to. Here’s the trees and everything else.
What is going on all around you is exactly this kind of mutual symbiosis. So for starters, the trees the plants are the ones that actually take the energy from the sun and they turn it into a. Their leaves and everything they make, and that offers nutrition for the animals. But when they give nutrition to the animals, it’s not at their expense.
They actually use the animals to put their seeds elsewhere. So the plants themselves can propagate. And then when animals and the and the plants begin to die they it’s we just think of it as turning into rock, but what happens is there’s this incredible other. Part of life, which is the fungal sort of network and life.
And there’s this networks of fungus that take all the dead matter and they turn it into nutrition back to the plants again. So there’s like beautiful, like a circular economy. And then the trees actually are connected with this micro a. Fungal network is called this under the ground. They’ve even learned to work with that network to create their own their own kind of internet.
If you will. It’s actually been called the wood wide web. Because what what biologists now understand is that a whole forest, the trees aren’t trying to compete with each other. They’re actually working together in a community there’s even like big old mother trees which have been around for maybe hundreds of years.
Actually used this, the actual network of fungus underground to send nutrition to other trees elsewhere, the younger ones in the edge of the forest, which are starting out and they even signal to each other. So if there’s a predator munching on some leaves in one place it’ll, the plant will actually put out signals to the other trees and they’ll start working out their insect repellent basically to protect themselves.
There’s all this kind of stuff going on around us all the time.
[00:09:08] Hunter: It’s so fascinating. And I love this idea of. Interconnection and cooperation being this, equally as potent driving force as competition, because competition is just shove down our throat and it’s, and, but it’s so interesting because dear listener, like this book is about so much more than that.
You might think this is a biology treatise , but it’s really not. It’s about meaning in so many different ways. And, but to. Stay on to stay on the idea of our biology or our environment and things like that. You have some heartbreaking chapters about what’s happening to the earth as far as like the number of it, species that are dying, climate crisis and things like that.
This is a podcast we talk about parenting. Do you have any ideas about how we could talk to kids about. These intense issues about climate change. We don’t want them to despair, but we want about the future, but we want them to be real. But then also like the whole idea that. Do we want them to be acclimated to, this future that’s like less than as far biologically than yeah.
The past might have been. Do
[00:10:27] Jeremy Lent: you have any ideas? Yeah, no, I think the, what you’re asking is a really important question. And I think there’s a, to a certain level, there is a sort of level of age appropriateness because obviously at a very young age making kids too much aware of.
Disastrous paths that we’re on right now might be just more than a very little kid can handle. But I think taking at that sort of level of what’s age appropriate, I feel it’s really important to actually be straight up with your kids. Once they begin to start inquiring about what’s going on these issues, because they’ll find out about it anyway.
And so it starts off on a. Issue, because if they find out about it from other people and then they bring it back to you as a parent, they’ve lost that sense of trust that you can really help them to direct, to understand the world in a way. And I think what is crucial is to not actually. Hold the punches kind of thing about how desperate things are because they are, and kids are growing up into a future.
They have a right to recognize that this is a future that they may be having to face, but at the same time, To not hold out a, not give a sense of despair or a sense of inevitability about disasters coming down the pike, because that’s actually not the case. We don’t need to despair. We don’t need to feel that.
Certainly there’s an inevitability that things are going to get worse in years to come. We can’t avoid that, but it doesn’t need to me that it’s inevitable that we’re going to hit. Total catastrophe. But what I think is crucial is let. Any child know, and this is true for ourselves as adults to recognize that we can actually be part of this solution.
And that doesn’t mean that any one of us is gonna be the great hero is gonna come and ride the white horse and turn everything around by ourselves. But we can. Actually tie into so many wonderful organizations around the world that are doing stuff to actually make a difference. And I’ve seen examples of kids who got themselves inspired and then inspired others.
By just actually tapping into stuff that’s going on in the community, for a kid, it could be a simple thing about getting involved in recycling programs or, and just doing things that are part of their local community. It doesn’t have to be dealing with some of the bigger, more sort of horrendous political issues or whatever, but knowing that there is things that they can do is as crucial as understanding that there is a problem at the same time.
[00:13:15] Hunter: Yeah, we need like an outlet for. Action. We can’t just feel helpless about it. And I guess that’s true for all of us. I, my daughter, my 14 year old daughter has been learning about the climate crisis for a number of years, but has recently feels very frustrated with the idea that. It goes back to that individualism idea like that, that all these companies have put like the onus on us to be able to right.
As individuals to, if we all do X, whereas really we need larger legislative changes. Because I shouldn’t feel bad for flying yeah. In an airplane, and so it’s hard. She kinda walk
[00:13:59] Jeremy Lent: that line. I think. Exactly. I it is a matter of walking a line and because. Write about that in the sense that the studies that have been done that shown that it’s the fossil fuel companies, a few decades back who actually started these ideas about it’s all the consumer’s responsibility, because they wanted to shift the focus away from what they were doing.
And it was actually a very cynical and strategic point in that part to get people to think, oh, I it’s. Job as a consumer to be more responsible and it’s my fault. And so that’s actually something to really understand. We do need the systems change and our own individual changes in behavior are not gonna be sufficient.
And at the same time, I do think it’s good to find the right place to navigate. There are some people in the environmental movement who have basically said I’m not flying period zero, and that’s it. And. Maybe, yeah. For some people that might be a more practical way to go. And for other people, including me, it’s too difficult to go to that place.
But I do feel it’s reasonable when we look at our own individual choices to just hold those spaces. And I’ll tell you, just speaking personally I’m here in California. My. Wife and I actually, a month from now are gonna be flying to Hawaii for a vacation. So we, I’m doing that, but I’m thinking along and hard about it and I’m avoiding trying to limit my big, multi out, long trips to ones where I feel as reasonable, and so . Each of us has a different version of reasonable. And I do feel that’s something we have to hold. I don’t think there is a magic bullet. That’s a single answer. That’s right for everyone. But I think we both need to be aware that our actions do have implications and that each of us, what’s interesting.
And we live in such an interconnected world that each time one of us makes a decision to do something people around us notice that, and it affects how they decide to do things. So there are studies that show that, for example, People who go on a diet, people who don’t even know them two or three connections away from them.
The likelihood that they’ll be dieting at some point around that time will go up because these have ripples of connections around us. So I don’t think there’s an easy answer quite honestly. Yeah. But it’s worth holding both of those things in our hands at the same time.
[00:16:40] Hunter: To shift gears.
Very, it feels very radically in a short conversation, but in your book, it’s not so radical, but you talk also about, and this is something we’ve talked about here before the idea of the self. And you talk about the self versus I I was wondering if you could talk about. Tell us what you mean by that.
And how is this idea of how is this
[00:17:04] Jeremy Lent: helpful? Yeah, sure. And this actually can be quite helpful. I think, especially when we are looking at our raising our kids and just how we are in those kind of family dynamics, because in a way what I talk about it is that actually the most important relationship in your life.
It’s not the one that you have with your spouse or your kid or your parent or whatever, it’s the one you actually have with yourself. And so it’s a there’s a chapter right? About the relationship between I and myself. And that’s a middle of a mindblower when you first talk about it. What’s this distinction, but actually a lot of what I explore in the book is that as humans.
We do have a kind of like a split consciousness and recognizing that is the first way towards re harmonizing or integrating that split consciousness and that the simplest way to get a sense of what I’m talking about is just to think of our normal speech. When I’m talking to you about. Myself and say I’m talking to you and say, oh yeah, I met her yesterday.
She gave me a warm smile. And then I felt really bad about myself because I didn’t respond appropriately. Or I might say I’m in a I’m. Was doing that job for a while. I finally left it. I’m so glad because I was torturing myself trying to get the deliverables on time, but now I feel so, so much better about myself.
I’m really proud of myself. So you know what I’m talking about? It’s not like you’re, it’s not like you, you suddenly thought, oh, this guy is. Gotten a little nuts and he’s become a split personality. You know what I’m saying? But there’s an eye on myself, right? I have a relationship with myself. I can be angry with myself.
I can be I can talk to myself. I can feel at one with myself. So who are these people going on? and that’s part of our human spirit consciousness. And so what I explore is that we can think of the self as more like. The sort of moment to moment consciousness that we have. It’s something that every animal has this moment to moment sense of feeling hungry, angry, and feeling warm, cold, all those things.
And it’s actually pretty much how infants are. And as they, when they first. Become into this well and feel what’s going on, but
[00:19:30] Hunter: as human and you call this the animat consciousness, right? Yeah. It’s exactly, I’ve mentioned this. I just we’re. So some talking to another podcast guest and I was like, it’s the animat consciousness you’re talking about.
Yeah. And cuz I love that word. I think that makes sense because it’s that, that bodily sensory moment to moment.
[00:19:47] Jeremy Lent: Yeah. Yeah. That’s. Lovely Mary Oliver poem, which she talks about to just learn to love the warm underbelly of your being. And that’s like that animat consciousness that’s on moment to moment.
And in fact, in meditation, when we are sitting there and we are observing that moment to moment arising of whatever happens, that’s, we’re observing that kind of animate consciousness doing its thing, but then in meditation, who’s doing the observing. Yeah. And that’s the eye. So the eye is like this thing, this something that develops in us as we get older, as we get to be maybe 5, 6, 7, we begin to develop a sense of eye.
And then that eye is like our sort of narrative of our lives. It’s the thing that says. I can identify who I am. Like, I’m a I’m an author or I’m a right. I’m in the middle of something, or my plan is to do this or that. It’s I’m the one who looks at those cells and says, I should be more like this.
So I, I will make judgments about myself or I have plans for myself and that I is one that can often lead to a harsh relationship. Myself. So a lot of us sometimes experience difficulties in our own consciousness, a sense of harshness. We have voices saying, oh, I shouldn’t be so stupid. Or, almost all of us, have some kind of experience like that. That’s the relationship between the eye and the self that doesn’t need to be like that it can be more harmonized. And I what’s interesting is that we learn those as we are. So when we grow up, if we have our parents or authority figures, and if we do something right or wrong and they come on they tell us, oh, you’re a really, you’re a wonderful person because you achieve this.
Then it might create my own eye to say, oh, I need to be a real achiever because that’s the way I’m a good person or vice versa. If you have a strict. Authoritarian parents saying, yeah, you should never do that again. And like you, you get your corporal punishment or you get like a real sense of something bad, then you learn to internalize that.
And then I start to tell myself oh, I’m bad because I do this or that. So how we parent actually leads to the quality of that relationship between the I and the self that our children will grow into as they get older. And that’s where parenting with love, like starting with unconditional love and relating to Dan Siegel’s work, who I know has been on this podcast a few times, they, that sense of integration, that recognition of differentiation.
But then merging together, like being one, but also being. Allowed to be separate recognizing each of our parts has their part of play and the fullness of who we are. Those are the kinds of things that can lead to what I call a democracy of consciousness. Like allowing all the different parts of ourselves to feel fully alive and be heard.
[00:22:58] Hunter: I like that idea of a democracy of our consciousness. I think lately I’ve been thinking about myself yeah. As more like a multicellular organism, like I am an ant colony really. And that and almost like the way I don’t know and then in the smaller sense, like I must sell in the earth body too.
I’m just one of these little cells that is gone and I’ve merged with another little cell and we made some more little cells in the earth product. Yeah. But also this sense of Reading your book. I got that too. This sense of there’s all these different parts of myself, biologically psychologically, all this different and all in so many ways, it’s like many different parts that come together and no wonder we have a.
A strange relationship with ourselves sometimes.
[00:24:01] Jeremy Lent: Right. That’s right. And a lot of what I actually look at in the book and explore is actually the incredible correspondences between the patterns that we see in the natural world, around us and the patterns that are within us, which is not a surprise because of course we are.
Nature, we learn, we’ve learned to think of nature, like the definition of nature. If you look it up in the dictionary or something is like something that is separate from human, the stuff that’s out there. So there’s humans over here and nature over there. And that’s another of these.
Fundamental mistakes that we have in our dominant well view that we think it’s scientific, but is the exact opposite. In fact, what we are is nature, and each of us is like roughly 40 trillion cells in our own bodies. That is actually who we are. It’s not oh, I have these cells. Those cells actually are me.
And it’s the way they interact with each other. Even every cell interacting with itself and interacting with all the other cells and then the way I’m interacting with everything else around me. That’s what actually creates who I am. And so a lot of what we’d explore in this book is this realization that our very identity doesn’t end with my own body or my own being.
It’s not. And we are told in our dominant worldview again, that each of us are like these individuals . And if we. So you follow Orthodox Christianity, whatever. We might believe that when we die, our individual soul, will go to heaven. If we were good or can go to hell if you’re bad or whatever, but it’s all about you as an individual.
And what the book actually explores is the realization that our very. Sense of identity is follows like these fractal patterns. It’s yeah, fractal is a really fascinating idea. Something some people might be familiar with this notion, but fractals are patterns that repeat themselves at different and scales in the world.
So you can imagine. Like a Fern leaf with little pattern and it gets bigger and bigger. And then the whole Fern and we see actual fractal patterns everywhere in nature, like in lightning or in our actual neuronal connections or our lung bronchials or basically anything that is natural or self-organized has these patterns that repeat a different scale.
And our identity is really like that. And we have. These kind of entities within ourselves that become us, but our own identity itself is as part of family as part of community, as part of humanity. And ultimately as part of all, life on this earth.
[00:26:53] Hunter: That’s so interesting because one of the things I work on teaching is changing generational patterns, right?
That’s something that’s really a passion of mine is the taking some of the unhealthy patterns that we do just a. Unconsciously repeat. We just repeat the patterns and it takes a lot of conscious effort and practice to shift those patterns because they are so innate to us. These, and you’re talking about these sort of patterns that repeat, I’d never thought of the generational patterns in the same
[00:27:29] Jeremy Lent: way.
Yes. And I think that you’re completely right. That’s actually one of the most. Valuable things we can do is recognize how these patterns actually shift. Not just spatially out there, but through time. And we can think of archetypes really all the way back through in the earliest parts of human experience as being these patterns.
I actually call them patterns of consciousness really that move through. One generation to the next, and they’re always different. It’s not like we are they’re fixed, but these core patterns retain an incredible amount of stability through time. And to your point the recognition of those patterns is the one of the first and most important steps to then being able to change.
And so I think that’s the key thing, if you don’t recognize that you have those patterns of behavior, you, that you are, you’re stuck in them, you’re basically imprisoned in whatever they are. But once you do recognize them, then what I believe is comes back to that relationship between the eye and the self it’s, like the eye.
Can recognize a pattern within the self, but then how we respond to that is crucial because if we respond to that, by saying that’s a bad pattern, I’ve gotta break that apart and and come up with something better that can lead to all kinds of difficult elements between. Eye in the self and the pattern ends up actually almost as it gets, gives you try to break it apart, it can almost respond with even more force and be much harder to break apart, but approaching it with love and compassion enables you to actually then move on to shifting that pattern.
It’s as though you can dissolve. Those patterns that are not so helpful, dissolve them with love rather than break them down by trying to fix them sort of thing. But realizing, oh, this pattern it came about because of things. When I was a young child, things I was trying to do to make sense of the world or it came about because of.
Inputs I got from my parents or other authority figures and then it was trying to be helpful, but then it got less helpful as time went on. But recognizing that and approaching it with love and compassion enables you then to then move on from that, not to try to get rid of it, but to actually allow it to be part of something bigger or bigger identity that you can grow into.
[00:30:09] Hunter: It becomes compost for a flower that will come that’s. Exactly. This is amazing because that’s in the mindful parenting course that I developed, like in the second module we do work to uncover our generational patterns. And then the third model is module is all about self-compasion it really, they are like so powerful, yes.
To each other. And you’re saying that this is the way to dissolve this. I love this. It’s so like meaningful to me. Yeah. Speaking of meaningful. So you write that meaning is a function of connectedness. So tell me what you mean by that.
[00:30:47] Jeremy Lent: Yeah the book itself the title right, is the web of meaning and the subtitled integrating science and traditional wisdom to find our place in the universe.
But that notion of the web of meaning is really crucial to me. And in fact, My own ex the, my own sort of path to end up writing this book was about a, my own search for meaning. So I went through a part of my life when things like, fell apart for me. And I was trying to understand what’s gonna, what’s truly meaningful as a path for me to pursue in my own life going forward.
And. What’s I found is that actually we can understand meaning itself as a function of connectedness, of how everything relates to everything else. A lot of the time in our life, again, because of what our dominant culture tells us, we think we’re meant to find meaning as though it’s some sort of point, like what’s the point of doing something as if there’s some sort of goal or objective that we have to move towards.
And that’s where meaning arises. But then when you look at the world from this different way of this profound interconnectedness of everything, you realize that the actual meaning that something has is not some separate thing, but it’s how it relates to everything else. And it’s even true. If you think of a, of just looking up what a word means in the dictionary you look up a word and it gives you other words.
That it relates to, and so you triangulate, oh, the meaning is like this and like that, and it’s somewhere in between those two or whatever. But if you think about what is truly meaningful to you in your life, you realize that actually, and it’s the relationships between things that actually cause that meaning and the more meaningful something is, the more, it impacts.
All the different aspects of your life. And maybe again, in terms of relationships with other people, with other parts of life, with the past and the future, and when people feel a sense of meaninglessness and they feel that leads to a sense of depression. It leads to a sense of isolation as separation from things.
And what is frightening to discover really, but then it’s enlivening because we realize we can do something about it is what our dominant culture is one of separation. So it’s as though everything we are told in our reality leads us to actually separating from each other and from the rest of life, rather than finding meaning through that connect.
[00:33:31] Hunter: I think you’re right. I think that’s something I it’s been, so this can really driven home. I think during the pandemic, this idea separating obviously, right? Social distancing and and and isolation and that, I think it, in some ways, It’s like instead of the frog and the pot of water that gets slowly hotter, we were all dumped into a boiling pot of water of isolation.
And we were just like, at least for me, I’m an extrovert and the, things like this podcast, like it give me so much. Meaning, and the way you described it as like these small points of connection, like no wonder, this gives me so much meaning you’re giving you’re explaining it so purposely, but like the, as an extrovert, the idea of that isolation was so hurt.
It hurt, it was hard. It was really painful to do that. And and yeah, I love this idea of that. Meaning as connectedness and that really does make. So much sense, and it can be read in a lot of different ways. Like it can be read, you, your book talks about things in a way of that.
Like meaning arises and can be read by somebody who’s atheistic in a really beautiful way and provide a lot of meaning to that. But I think it could also be read by somebody who is a, a believer in a Christian or believer in God and saying, oh look at this meaning in this, the way that this is in everything and the way it’s all interconnected.
Yes. It could be. That meaning could be brought out from a lot of different viewpoints.
[00:35:19] Jeremy Lent: Yes. That is completely right. And really the book doesn’t ask anybody to say, oh, stop believing in this. And believe in that this is like some sort of new some new answer to everything or whatever.
What the book does is really is look at the different ways in which insights. All the great traditions around the world relate to each other and how they actually relate to modern science, because this is one of the ways and another of these kind of mistakes of our dominant world view that we just think are true, is we led to believe that science and spirituality are separate from each.
Either like enemies of each other and or else just meant to live in separate domains. Oh science looks at how things work and spirituality looks at meaning or a sense of yeah. Of, of spirit or religion or something. And that’s not scientific. And many people believe you are meant to keep these things separate, but.
Personally, I’ve come to see, and this is what science actually shows us now that sense of separation is false. In fact, and when we look at what modern sciences show us, you can think of them as like sciences of. Connectivity like they’re, they’ve got names like systems theory that looks at the, at things as complex systems or systems biology that looks at living entities as how they’re connected up or complexity science that looks at just how the world is all these different complex ways of of relating all of these things.
Show us that actually. The connections between things oftentimes are more important than the things themselves and these scientific approaches to things actually lead to a sense of spirituality as a real, we can even understand spirituality itself as focusing your attention on those connections between things rather than things themselves.
And we begin to see that getting a sense of meaning arising from that connectivity, getting a sense of. A reverence for all of life and for the, just the amazing miracle of the universe, truly religious feelings and sensations are actually founded on the best science. They’re not anti-scientific at all.
And that they begin to see the distinction just is made
[00:37:54] Hunter: up. I love this, you’re speaking my language because it’s frustrating. Like the sort of like the old reductionist science of let’s just look at this tiny piece and this tiny piece and separate it out from all the other things. Is.
Helpful in so many ways, but it’s also cold and it just was like a little bit, and it and it does make more, obviously it’s more meaningful when it’s interconnected with everything, those are my favorite conversations, when you’re like saying, oh, yes. And this is how this is connected to this thing.
And this is how this is connected to that thing. Yeah. Yeah. And I imagine it is for you, obviously you’re fascinated with patterns and connectedness as well. Yeah.
[00:38:38] Jeremy Lent: yeah. But as you said it so well, hon like that’s is actually reductionism that a lot of people think is science. That’s again, one of these kind of mistaken ways that we generally told to understand things and, but reductionism itself, Basically, like you say, it’s a part of science that says we can understand things better and better by breaking it down into the smaller and smaller parts.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, there’s a lot right about that. That was something that led to the scientific revolution hundreds of years ago. And it’s that, that led to so much. Of the incredible understanding. We now have that, leads to the technology where you and I can speak to each other across thousands of miles and other people can get to and hear us and be part of us.
And and it’s like things like the, just simple things, like the germ theory of disease and foundational things, we can be so grateful to reductionist science for what they’ve done, but they, it got to be so successful that over the years, People began to think that reductionism doesn’t just explain a lot of stuff about the universe.
It explains everything about the universe, and it’s the only way to make sense of the universe. That’s the mistake that that sort of got to be part of our mainstream culture. And so what the book shows. Not that there’s anything wrong with reductionism or reduction in science, but it’s yes. And in addition to those parts, by looking at the ways in which those parts connect, we can actually understand the world much better scientifically, and also see how it relates to a sense of meaning.
Be how we, as humans relate to the rest of life, how, and each of us as individuals relate to our community and to all of humanity around us. And once we start to live in those relationships, everything actually becomes more meaningful. And it also leads to a different sense of wellbeing, a different sense of the quality of of our lived experience.
[00:40:43] Hunter: I couldn’t agree more. I think that the isolation that we’re experiencing, not just from the pandemic, but from from our way of life, where we’re. Maybe always in a little room behind a screen. Yeah. Or we’re connecting with our friends by looking at a little box and typing some words to them.
This sort of way of life is isolating us. Yes. And that’s, and I’m wondering if you have, you’ve thought about this a lot. I love the web of meaning. I highly recommend it. I was telling Jeremy before we started that my husband has decided he thinks it’s his Bible . Which I think is so great.
But do you have you have any thoughts on how we can get back? I think, because this is maybe something we’re, we’ve lost in some way along the way or losing to this sense of relatedness with the rest of life. Do you have any, you’ve explored so many ideas, but do you have any recommendations for.
Increasing our sense of relatedness and therefore our sense of meaning for people who are in. Busy lives who have to work in little boxes and things
[00:42:07] Jeremy Lent: like that. Exactly. And it’s and when you have busy lives, imping on you. It’s so hard to find the time, but I do think one of the most important things we can do is begin with some version of mindfulness, some version of carving, some time out to let things settle, to be more.
Reflective. And if you do have a meditation practice, that’s definitely one of the best ways to begin and really when’s in that meditation practice, what is so valuable is to get in touch with just like we were describing earlier, that sense of our own animat. Consciousness or animate intelligence in this realization of that.
It’s not just that I want to be more connected with life, but I am life. And once we begin to start to, in fact, this was a hugely. And like meaningful leap for me some years back as I was doing this research, once I began to understand that, actually I am not just the, I’m not some sort of end product of billion years of evolution.
I’m an ongoing process in those billions of years of evolution, I’m part of life unfolding. And once we begin to realize that’s the case, it’s as though. Connecting with our own animate consciousness, then allows us to see our shared animat being with all the rest of sentient. We begin to realize that when we see another animal in pain or distress that’s the same kind of pain or distress that we feel it’s not being an anthropomorphic in.
Way that’s wrong to actually say, oh, we have a shared experience. And as you go to a deeper layer, we can even get that with plants around us. We can feel that we all are part of this unfolding of life, that we are all actually deeply connected. And they’re all our cousins evolutionarily, we all came from the same original life source and we’re all part of working together in this.
Some symbiosis. Going internally in that regard going to as much as possible going to some less I don’t wanna say going into nature because my whole point is we are nature, but going to a part of nature that has been less turned into. Sitters or developed by human activity and doing that kind of was sometimes called forest bathing.
So you go for a walk in nature and you don’t just go as a time to get 20 minutes just so you can let your mind wander. And before it, you’re back again. But actually open yourself up to what’s going around on, around you to feel into that symbiosis. I was talking about earlier to realize that there’s all these sentient around you.
Basically spirits of life, that’s doing its thing that you are part of and realizing that even the trees as you walk by them are aware of you, even though they might not. They might not show it in some way that we can understand actually they are aware of your sort of presence. And that kind of connectedness allows us to begin to see that we are part of something so much bigger than ourselves.
[00:45:29] Hunter: I appreciate that advice so much. And I take it to heart and sometimes that connect that sense of connectedness for me anyway, leads to profound sadness because it’s because the harm we’re doing, but. I can’t, I’m not gonna turn away from that because of that. That’s right. That sadness,
[00:45:51] Jeremy Lent: I guess.
Yeah. Hunter, I’m really glad you raised that because that is something, it’s something that I’ve experienced so many times and it’s something that’s really important to surface because once we realize, like in the words, Of this great 20th century, humanitarian Albert Wrights. He said, I am life that wills to live in the midst of life, that wills to live.
And it’s this profound understanding. But once we realized that we realize hell life is under attack by our civilization. And it is it’s being destroyed actively by what our civilization is doing. And in fact, what is one of the more difficult parts. The book for me, difficult in just writing it is this realization that all the beauty of life that we see around us when we are in that forest or wherever it is basically like maybe 10% of the abundance of what was once there.
The, all of the nature itself is a sad sort of ruin basically of what it once was. And that’s really hard to take in. And a lot of the time I feel we can only take it. By sharing it with others. We can’t hold that sort of burden ourselves, but I do feel that in this world way, it is right now with this devastation taking place and increasing that we have to hold that.
Enough, so we can then turn it towards engagement. We have to be really careful not to let it sink us down into this sense of despair or a sense of oh my God, the enormity is more than I can handle. But what life wants from us is to feel its own suffering enough to then say, I’ve got. If like for those of us who are in a more privileged place who have some time and ability to actually choose where we put some of our intention and to say, I can do something about that.
And then we realize that when we actually shift towards engagement, we can actually hold the pain more easily because we realize that, yes, we’re doing something for life. I
[00:48:02] Hunter: think that’s such a beautiful way to end this conversation. I would love to just talk about this so much longer with you.
It’s really fascinating. Jeremy Lynn’s book is called the web of meaning. Is there anything before we go that we miss that we didn’t touch on. And also how can people reach out to you and learn more about what you’re doing?
[00:48:26] Jeremy Lent: Oh, sure. Yeah. You can find my, anything more about my work by just going to my website, which is it.
Jeremy lent dot com. And actually if you’re interested in really being part of more being part of that change, that kind of transformation that we need for our civilization actually just been kicking off a new online network, actually speaking about meaning being a function of connectedness is a way for us to be connected.
All around the world online. And it’s a network called the deep transformation network. And if you just go to deep transformation.network, so not just.but.network you’ll actually be able to see the network and you can join for free. It’s no, there’s no cost to it, but the idea is to allow people to begin to connect with each other and share all these different ideas like we’ve been talking about with each other in a global community.
For change around the world.
[00:49:30] Hunter: All right. Awesome. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for taking the time to come on the mindful mom podcast. I really appreciate your writing, your thoughtfulness, your research. I appreciate what you’re putting out into the world and it’s really touched me deeply and I’m so appreciative of what you’ve done.
[00:49:49] Jeremy Lent: Thank you so much. And for for inviting me and really just please pass my, thanks on to your husband for it’s. I’m so glad to hear how he’s been resonating with the book.