Is it me or the world?

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life. And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment. — R. Tagore

The lit­tle life that is grow­ing inside of me is get­ting more pro­nounced every day. Yes­ter­day we had the 20-week scan, which I was real­ly look­ing for­ward to. Every­thing looked good, so we are very hap­py. The phase of col­lect­ing baby items seems to start now; peo­ple around us are offer­ing us all kinds of items, which is great. It also includes advice in the form of books. I now know every­thing about the devel­op­ment of babies (and the frus­tra­tions of moth­ers) from a Dutch book called “Oops, I’m grow­ing!”. One pas­sage from the book is inter­est­ing enough to share here: (My translation)

He [the baby up to 5 weeks old] can­not yet dis­tin­guish between what his sens­es tell him about his envi­ron­ment and what they tell him about his body. For him, the out­side world and his body are one. What hap­pens out­side, hap­pens in his body. And what his body feels, every­thing and every­one feels. The world is bored. The world is hun­gry, warm, wet, tired or tasty.

I admit, I don’t know much about babies yet, but I wasn’t expect­ing Bud­dhist wis­dom from these small bun­dles of life. Know­ing and feel­ing that you are one with every­thing that exists, is the high­est you can achieve in many East­ern reli­gions. As Thich Nhat Hanh says: “We can­not just be by our­selves alone. We have to inter-be with every oth­er thing.”

Heart outside of our body

An unborn baby is not an inde­pen­dent being. If the heart of the moth­er stops beat­ing, the baby’s life is also over. Thich Nhat Hanh men­tions the sun as an exam­ple of a ‘heart out­side of our body’: we are just as depen­dent on it as the baby depends on me at the moment.

The Invention of NatureI have always found this a beau­ti­ful con­cept. Over the sum­mer, I read the biog­ra­phy of Alexan­der von Hum­boldt (just to indi­cate that I also read books that are not about babies). He was the first West­ern sci­en­tist to view nature as a com­plex web of life, an organ­ism in which every­thing is con­nect­ed. With the human race as a com­po­nent that does not know its place any­more. Hum­boldt strong­ly crit­i­cized the Span­ish colo­nial gov­ern­ment, which exploit­ed and destroyed both the pop­u­la­tion and the nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment in South Amer­i­ca, two things that always go togeth­er. Two hun­dred years lat­er, it is almost as if this colo­nial virus has only increased in strength.

We are more than we think we are

Joan­na Macy says it like this:

The cri­sis that threat­ens our plan­et, whether seen in its mil­i­tary, eco­log­i­cal, or social aspects, derives from a dys­func­tion­al and patho­log­i­cal notion of the self. It derives from a mis­take about our place in the order of things. It is the delu­sion that the self is so sep­a­rate and frag­ile that we must delin­eate and defend its bound­aries; that it is so small and so needy that we must end­less­ly acquire and end­less­ly con­sume; and that as indi­vid­u­als, cor­po­ra­tions, nation-states, or a species, we can be immune to what we do to oth­er beings.

The med­i­cine against our greed, which is turn­ing the oceans into waste­belts, and con­demns mil­lions of ani­mals to a mis­er­able life on fac­to­ry farms, is sim­ple: look around you! We are part of a mag­nif­i­cent whole, and by treat­ing the world with care, we take care of ourselves.

So did we already achieve our ulti­mate self-real­iza­tion as a baby, and is every­thing that fol­lows (lift­ing your head, walk­ing, school, writ­ing blogs) a mis­er­able dete­ri­o­ra­tion of this per­fect state of being? You would almost think so. Yet I am glad that I have made all these steps, so that I can now read books and enjoy for exam­ple this beau­ti­ful poem by Tagore:

The same stream of life that runs
through my veins night and day runs
through the world and dances in rhyth­mic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy
through the dust of the earth in num­ber­less blades of grass and
breaks into tumul­tuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-creadle
of birth and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glo­ri­ous by the touch of this world
of life. And my pride is from the life-throb of ages
danc­ing in my blood this moment.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861 — 1941)


  • Het­ty van de Rijt en Frans X. Plooij, Oei, ik groei!
  • Thich Nath Hanh, Peace is every step
  • Andrea Wulf, The inven­tion of Nature: The adven­tures of Alexan­der von Humboldt
  • Joan­na Macy, essay in Spir­i­tu­al Ecol­o­gy — the Cry of the Earth