The Ecology of Mind, a film by Nora Bateson, celebrates a person whose teaching and work in various academic and not-so-academic disciplines helped form the notion of a holistic Earth and the environment as a web of intricate, interconnected systems, of which humans are an inextricable part. A British anthropologist who worked in the South Pacific (and was married for a time to Margaret Mead) as well as a sociologist, cyberneticist, linguist and semiotician, Gregory Bateson may not be a household name, but he was a pioneer thinker whose ability to connect previously separate disciplines had a formative influence on the concept of ecology, among other ideas. “In the 1960s and 1970s, Bateson became a mentor to students, seasoned academics and environmentalists, providing the language and insights that linked ecology to general systems, psychology, sociology, epistemology and broad theories of science,” noted Rex Weyler, co-founder of Greenpeace International.
“Gregory is the patron saint of the Whole Earth Catalogue,” said Julian Lines, who runs the Matagiri Sri Aurobindo Center in Mount Tremper and first met Bateson at Lindisfarne, a meditation retreat and educational center established on Long Island in the 1970s, when his daughter Nora was nine. “Stewart Brand [creator of the Whole Earth Catalogue] considered Gregory to be the inspiration of what he did: that we’re not separate from the environment and need to think holistically.” Bateson died in the 1980s; Nora, who is married to jazz drummer Dan Brubeck (son of Dave), lives with her family in Vancouver.
The film will be shown at the Rosendale Theatre on Sunday, April 1 at 4:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 and include a question-and-answer session with Nora following the screening. It’s probably wise to get there early, given that the East Coast premiere of the film (completed at the end of 2010) at the American Museum of Natural History sold out. Lines noted that the Rosendale screening is a benefit for Auroville, a community in India that was devastated by a cyclone in December. No one was killed, but half the trees planted as part of a reforestation project back in 1968, when Bateson visited, were blown down.
The film features interviews with Bill Thompson, an author and professor who founded Lindisfarne; Jerry Brown; Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism; and other iconic figures. “The film is a daughter’s portrait” of Bateson, and as such is infused with the warmth and intimacy of a home movie, Lines said. The Batesons also had a connection with India, first visiting Pondicherry, home of a famous ashram, along with Lois Bateson, Gregory’s wife at the time and Nora’s mother, in the early 1970s, so the film touches on aspects of Indian yoga and philosophy. For trailers and reviews, visit www.anecologyofmind.com.