As Americans across the nation struggle against high unemployment rates, exorbitant gas costs and failed mortgages, the phrase "times are tough," seems to belittle our situation rather than describe it. It's not only the economy that has taken a sour turn: Our natural world with its finite resources continues its struggle against the destructive machine we call "progress."
The red flag is up and has been up. We know now that our way of life is not self-sustaining. That our materialism and longer than usual work days aren't providing the satisfaction we envisioned. Instead, we find ourselves overwhelmed by a social system that lends itself to anxiety, stress and depression. Things have to change, but how is the baffling question.
Philip Shepherd's New Self, New World: Recovering Our Senses in the Twenty-first Century is a book that offers a simple yet powerful answer. He argues that the solution to the dilemma we have found ourselves in rests right under our very noses: our own bodies. Shepherd claims that the reason why our social and economic systems are failing is because we humans have lost touch of the world around us because we've lost touch with our own bodies.
In a culture that celebrates the human intellect and mind, we have become disillusioned by a false reality. We have been allured into thinking ourselves separate (if not superior) from the rest of the natural world and have acted thus. Our failure to see the inter-connectedness of nature and all living organisms has encouraged us to act recklessly and without thought of consequence. In our obsession with progress and independence, we have not only crippled the ecosystems of the world, but also endangered our own survival as a species. Until we begin to live in our bodies and its senses rather than our heads, argues Shepherd, we will continue living an unsustainable, un-fulfilling existence. By reconnecting to our bodies, we reconnect to our humanity and become in tuned with our dependent relationship to the natural world. This grounded experience in the body allows us to live harmoniously with the natural world and, thus, with ourselves. Shepherd's book is not only enlightening, but extraordinary in its simplistic approach to a very complicated problem.