When the inspirational Satish Kumar, editor of Resurgence and Ecologist magazine told us he was coming to London to give a talk at the Nehru Centre, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to be immersed in his wonderful warm energy and to hear his wisdom about ‘Soil, Soul and Society’, and their inter-relationship.
‘Soil, Soul and Society’ is the title of Satish’s latest book and he puts this forward as the new trinity for our time. ‘Mind, Body, Spirit’ is a similar such trinity, but it has more of a focus on the self. Soil, Soul and Society is about our outerscape (soil), innerscape (soul) and our relationship with each other (society). It is a holistic trinity.
Satish spoke about each of the elements in turn, starting with soil. He spoke about how we forget the importance of soil. We owe our clothes and food to soil (not to mention our shoes!). We stand on the soil. We depend on the quality of the soil, and if we forget soil, we forget everything. We are nature.
Satish told the story of how he was invited to speak at the London School of Economics (LSE). The word ‘economics’ has its root in the word ‘ecos’ which means home. It is a root that it shares with ‘ecology’. Economics means ‘the management of home’; ecology means ‘the knowledge of home’. Satish asked if ecology is taught at LSE. The answer was no. He posed another question: how can you manage something you don’t have knowledge of? He suggested re-naming the LSE to London School of Economics and Ecology. We look forward to LSEE coming into being.
The second part of the trinity is soul. As we need to take care of our outer landscape, we need to take care of our inner landscape. We need to develop our soul qualities of compassion, love, generosity and patience. Satish also spoke of creativity as an important part of the soul. Every person is a special kind of artist – you just need to go and open the door yourself. To do this, you need courage and a spirit of adventure.
The final part of the trinity is society. Our primary identity is as a member of the human family. The most deprived must be looked after first.
In response to questions about the future, Satish said that he was optimistic. But at the same time he stressed that we all need to be participants in shaping the future. We are all special kinds of leaders. We all need to rise to the challenge and participate in shaping the world, and not leave it to others to shape our lives. That's one of the reasons why soul is central – we need to be able to communicate and spread these ideas to others.
Satish finished by saying he doesn’t make a division between spiritual life and practical life. Cooking can be spiritual when carried out with love and care. So can his work in editing the magazine. He sees life as an opportunity to serve – and that is his spiritual practice.
Service – perhaps that is the word that can link together our relationship to the trinity of soil, soul and society. We’re grateful to Satish for his inspiring words to take away, ponder and put into practice.