Reality is not anthropocentric; it is not even perceptual-centric. The only thing that is perceptual-centric is perception itself. Each and every individual perceives as a separate center of the cosmos. This center is the experiential starting place for all creatures – including ourselves. From this center we see from our eyes, hear through our ears, touch through our skin, smell through our noses and taste through our tongues.
But as humans, we also have the capacity to learn, and one of the things that we can learn is that the position we experience at the center of our world doesn’t really mean that we are all-important and the center of everything. Everything that we have learned, we once were not aware of – we have learned.
That other people are important, have an equal right to exist and have something to say – we have learned. That we are just one, insignificant individual among over 6 billion people, and that we inhabit a planet, circling around a star, with other planets in the solar system, which is just one of many solar systems in the galaxy, which is just one of a vast number of galaxies in the cosmos – we have learned. Even that we are a part of and dependent upon a vast, interconnecting, relational system – we have learned.
Most of what we have learned in this regard is true, but that truth does not replace the assumptions inherent in the way we perceive; it just overlays it. We all begin our lives in experience, and this experience from the center continues to form us. In the apparent truth of the way we perceive, we are the center of the world, which means that we all begin our lives out of reality and in illusion. We might come to know better, but we never perceive better.
And whatever else we know, we still believe what we see – and just as our beliefs are the meaning of our feelings, our feelings are the experience of our beliefs. For most of us, most of the time – this fusion of feelings and beliefs, experience and content, continues to determine our behavior – even though we might have learned and know better.
Our identity starts out as – and continues to be formed by – our perception of ourselves from and, therefore, as the center of the world. Not only that, but in order to survive and evolve, we must continue to identify with and act from this perception.
But that which we have learned about (that which is what we are in the absolute context) is that we are only a center of the world. Our identity as a holon (both a part and a whole) in the vast system that encloses and sustains us, is our real identity.* In this reality we are not the center of the world, but at once both a part and the totality of the universe. In order to survive and progress as a civilization, we must also identify with and act from this as well.
We must master the art of being simultaneously in two identities.
So, we have no choice but to proceed as if we – not necessarily as individual beings, but as part of the human race, even part of the species of life – are the center of the world. In that respect our survival is of paramount importance.
We must keep in mind, however, that we are also, completely dependent upon the cosmic ecology. Its well-being is our well-being; its survival is our survival. This is a paradox, a duality to which there is no synthesis. Instead, we are called upon to simultaneously entertain both identities, perceptual and learned,* animal and human, biological and spiritual. Holding these two, separate viewpoints and identities simultaneously is part of the philosophy of enlightened self-interest.
*The learned or real identity which we can only fully realize as we become enlightened.