When you are in your teens and 20s, life seems to extend into the future like an endless expanse of potential experiences. You can’t imagine not having the opportunity to visit places you love again or see friends and family regularly. As you grow older and encounter both loss and change, life takes on a quality of uncertainty, sweetness tinged with sorrow. A favorite uncle or a parent dies, friends move away, you yourself may move multiple times. The tapestry of life is always shifting, and we too shift with the changes. At a certain point, you may realize that the years ahead are possibly fewer than those behind. It may awaken a deep sense of appreciation for every moment you are given. This is how our lives teach us gratitude. Yet now, at this time on the planet, that lesson is coming up in unexpected ways.
Are we really so separate?
Love the world.
To simplify and summarize, our brain has three primary motivational systems – Avoiding harms, Approaching rewards, and Attaching to “us” – that draw on many neural networks to accomplish their goals.
Lately, I’ve started to realize that a fourth fundamental human motivational system could be emerging as well.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors depended upon their habitats for food and shelter. Today, over 7 billion of us are pressing hard up against the limits of Lifeboat Earth. To survive and to flourish, cultural and perhaps biological evolution are calling us to love the world.
The world is near to hand in the food you eat, the air you breathe, and the weather and climate in which you spend your days. And then in widening circles, the world extends out to include complex webs of life and the physical characteristics of the land, the sea, and the sky.