My passion for human ecology was not a drive for closure—but rather the joy of endless openings and newfound connections. There is no final goal or perfect completion, only the expanding experience of being alive.
The average American child, by age eighteen, is estimated to have seen eighteen thousand murders and two hundred thousand acts of violence on television. The “death play” of popular video games is accelerating these numbers to ever-higher levels.
Death is universal. The rituals associated with it, however, vary substantially—and are greatly influenced by their religious and cultural context.
It may be said, in broad-brush terms, that the primary purpose of life is the continuation of life. A deep program for survival and reproduction underwrites the complex cycles of life, in which death is the grand equalizer. There is, however, a peculiar novelty: human awareness of the cycle of life and a capacity to anticipate our own, individual death.
The border between personal and transpersonal experience is a complex region. It is a territory often filled with spiritual and religious views. Within psychology it was a significant preoccupation of William James, Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, and many others. But these margins may be seen in other ways as well. There is substantial evidence from psychological studies of personal space that we carry body boundaries of extended space around ourselves. These spatial extensions are not only personal. They may be felt by groups as well—in terms of shared “social” space, communal territories, or even national identities.
Most intellectual training focuses on analytical skills. Whether in literary criticism or scientific investigation, the academic mind is best at taking things apart. The complementary arts of integration are far less well developed. This problem is at the core of human ecology. As with any interdisciplinary pursuit, it is the bridging across disparate ways of knowing that is the constant challenge.