Leslie Paul Thiele


On his book Indra's Net and the Midas Touch: Living Sustainably in a Connected World

Cover Interview of November 22, 2011


Readers should not assume that Indra’s Net and the Midas Touch is an unhopeful book.  The Midas myth urges caution and prudence, to be sure.  But the myth of Indra’s net suggests why our interdependencies are full of promise.

Indra is the king of the Vedic deities.  Over his palace, it was said, hangs a net that stretches in all directions to infinity.  At each node of the net, where the gossamer strands intersect, hangs a beautiful jewel.  And each facet of every jewel provides a reflection of all the other jewels.  The ancient sages insisted that the jewels hanging from Indra’s net are not enduring substances.  They do not have an essential nature.  Rather, each jewel is the manifestation of relationships of interdependence.  Each jewel exists only as the cavalcade of reflections to which it contributes.

All the strands of Indra’s net are connected.  Sever one, and the whole is weakened.  This is the upshot of interdependence.  But the jewels on Indra’s net also mirror each other.  They are, in the end, nothing but the aggregation of such reflections.  Relationship, not an individual essence, is their core reality.  My book is meant to illustrate how a growing awareness of our interdependence, understood as the core of our being, is the only viable means of sustaining ourselves and our world.  I develop the notion of ecosophic awareness to denote a mindful attention to relations of interdependence and a hopeful investment in them.

Ecosophic awareness in a connected, changing world fosters adaptation.  Sustainability, in the end, is not about the human race becoming the curator of a planetary museum.  It is about our learning how to manage the rate and scale of change within economic, social, and ecological systems so as to maintain their core values and relationships.  To be advocates of sustainability, we have to become midwives of the future.