Intervening without controlling

I justify my position on intervening in the world.

I prefer to let animals such as this Colchester based European Green Woodpecker be.

I prefer to let animals be such as this Colchester based European Green Woodpecker.

When should I intervene in my world? I have struggled many years answering this question. I created a rule in my recent blog post titled “Going beyond control,” that I would only intervene if I enhanced the life or environment of my target of intervention.  A long-time reader of Liberated Way named Danny Williams has a Taoist outlook on life and made the following comment:

“The need to control is inherent within my nature (comes down from my father’s side) and it is something that I am in constant battle with.
However, in my battle, I struggle to define what control actually is. I.e. you say with one of your personal changes ‘I enhance that which I intervene in.’ but to my mind, your examples show that you are controlling your immediate environment based upon your own perception of what the Hilly Fields should be like, and where the Bee prefers to be.
In the case of the Bee, I’m sure you have times when you would prefer to be somewhere that is not of an immediate benefit to you, but you choose to be there anyway. What if that Bee had chosen to be on the concrete…?

As you know, I am a keen follower of the Eastern philosophies. When considering ‘control’ I learned a lot from Bruce Lee’s Taoist ways when he would say ‘Be like water my friend’. Water flows around objects leaving them as they were when it first arrived.
It does not pass judgement, and it does not make changes beyond the affect of its temporary presence.
Be like water my friend. Allow the Bee to be.”

Question: I come upon a crazy person beating a baby to death, do I let it be, walk on, do nothing? I answer that I follow the rule like for like, if I was a baby, would I like death by beating? If not, would I like someone to help to prevent my death by beating? I would intervene, and in the process enhance the life of the baby by preventing injury and death to the baby.

In my blog post “Going beyond control,” I gave three examples of intervention where I in my opinion enhanced the target of my intervention. I saved a bird from a cat, as I deduced this bird might desire injury-free life.  I decided in moving a bee from concrete to a flower, the problem of wild animals in conflict with disharmonious creations of humanity, flowers are better than concrete for bees.  Danny is correct that I am unable to justify my intervention rules in picking up litter from Hilly Fields; in answer I am in a trade relationship with Hilly Fields, I use this as a base of inspiration, photography and discovery, I return in payment the clearing of litter from Hilly Fields.

When I saw a homeless person steal milk from a retail store, I did not intervene.  I could have stopped a shop thief who ran past me, I let him go, as for the theft of a Halloween mask: intervention risked personal injury; loss of privacy of my details going on databases; loss of time completing police paperwork; loss of time going to court as a witness; risk of retribution from the thief; risk of being charged for assault by the police and a civil damages claim if I injured the thief.

I came across a bee today that was in trouble. The bee was in the road rolling around as the wheels of passing vehicles nearly flattened it.  I intervened by scooping up the bee, placing it in the grass.  The bee proceeded in travelling back towards the road.  I changed tactics by capturing the bee in a bag, I desperately looked for a safe place to safely deposit the bee.  On  a grassy field the wind took the bag from my hand and I was chasing the bag across the field, I lost the bee in the confusion.

Later today I sat on a wall, I noticed a strange white insect struggling against the wind with limited grip on the wall.  I intervened, I placed a stick shield against the wind for the insect.  The insect climbed upon the stick, which I deposited upon the grass behind the wall where I spotted similar looking insects.

I reluctantly intervene in human affairs. I mostly only intervene with plants and animals if they are in trouble. Many of my interventions with nature fall under the trade relationship; there is a trade going on of benefit for benefit; if I enjoyed eating a wild cherry, I deposit the seed of the cherry in a location where a cherry tree may grow.

In those areas I am steward of, such as my personal business, I pro-actively intervene as per my role in defending, maintaining and enhancing the boundaries, processes and prosperity of it.


18 responses to “Intervening without controlling

  1. the end result of water is erosion.

    By being we change things.

  2. Alex, if you left the litter on Hilly Field it would eventually find itself in the waterways affecting the marine life or even the storm drains which will take extra effort by humans or machines to remove. In the case of bees, we have lost so many to colony collapse saving even one can make a difference. I disagree that water does not change things. Living near a lake most of my life (and all my childhood) I can tell you the damage it will do. Eroding of land is only one. Continue to intervene when you feel you should.

    • I cleared more litter from Hilly Fields tonight, and will keep doing this every few days. One resident who walks their dogs says the broken glass can injure dogs. I take away a lot of broken glass, which is a danger to the rabbits, and people too.

      • I’m glad you will keep picking up Hilly Fields. I go barefoot whenever possible so yes, broken glass would be a problem.

      • This morning I will be out on Hilly Fields before 7am picking up litter as an experiment in changing my routines. I will have my camera with me to catch any interesting photos of early morning nature 🙂

  3. That’s a good response Alex.
    Ha, funny. I feel the need to defend myself a little!
    I did not try to make any kind of statement as to what was right or wrong. I don’t feel that there is a right answer to any chosen action, only that there is a right answer for the individual concerned.
    One of my biggest gripes is with people who say that their answer is the right one, but they do this without ever having actually thought about WHY. (I do not include you oin this group… )
    However, in that particular post it seemed to me that you were trying to reach a particular stance on intervention, but thhat it seemed that something was missing.
    I’m pleased to have made you think.

    You might like to know that I choose to take similar actions with helping insects and other animals to places that seem more advantageous to them. However, when making these choices, I am forever feeling that they are merely choices based upon my ignorant human perception of their needs. I learned a long time ago that that more I larn, the more I realise that I don’t know, therefore my intervention in their lives feel more like interference.
    …that’s just me though…

    Still it seems from the papers, etc, that the bees need a little help at the moment… and admittedly, we seem to be the only ones in any kind of position to do that!

    Always difficult.. “Am I helping, or interfering…?”

    • Hi Danny, I appreciated your feedback, including the many in the past. These sort of questions are important to me as a reality check against hubris and delusion.

      Human beings are gifted with imagination which allows us to have empathy, to second guess an animals needs. By being attentive to existing animal patterns, or the situation the animal is seen in, the individual can reasonably deduce if an animal is in trouble.

      Situations I have been involved in include releasing squirrels and crows from traps (they like their freedom) and ripping into a kid that was mindlessly badly damaging a tree.

      I have been looking for a final stance on interventions, which like anything in life is never straight forwards.

  4. I love the post and the intriguing thoughts it provokes.. I love the Bruce Lee quote!

  5. Alex… this is a very though provoking post… how far does one go to intervene in nature or for that matter in anything… is it not a conscious decision that we make, sometimes without any though as to the consequence.? To save a bird from a cat, can we equate this to trying to save a deer from a lion that needs to feed.?? Having witnessed in Nature the kill by lions of an impala, it was hard, one wanted the impala to get away, yet I knew the Lion need to eat… to aid an insect to progress in it’s journey is a natural human trait, unless one is sadistic and tries to hinder its progress… this post has made me think why I do certain things, like rescue the poor bee that has flown into the house and can’t find a way out again. but do we go so far as to rescue the bee that has flown into a spider web and is caught.? Very thought provoking post … thank you…

    • Hi Bulldog, sometimes I have to make split second decisions, especially if an animal is in immediate danger. When I intervened to save the bird from the domestic cat I knew the cat was already looked after, the death of the bird would have been pointless. I would not intervene in a situation where an animal needed to feed itself or its young. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  6. Bulldog’s response above has reminded me of a short story I read years ago.

    ‘A traveller came across a Buddhist monk crouching by the side of a stream. He could see that he was helping a scorpion out of the stream where it couldn’t get up the steep sides, but as he helped it, it would sting him. It would then turn around and fall straight back into the stream, only for the monk to help it out again and get stung again. After witnessing this a few times the traveler had to ask why the monk kept allowing himself to get stung. “Alas,” said the monk “there is nothing that can be done. It is in the nature of the scorpion to sting, and it is in my nature to help it out of the stream.” ‘

    I think all we can do is learn how to be an integral part of nature, not attempt to be outside of it.

  7. Good day. This is Daniel from
    Would you be interested in a mutually beneficial collaboration between our 2 blogs in order to increase our viewers/followers? I await your response on e-mail (please mention your blogs name in the response so I do not mix you up with my other collaborators).
    P.S. sorry for sending it as a comment (I couldn’t find your e-mail address).

    • Hi Daniel,

      Thanks for your offer at collaboration. I have looked at your blog, and I like what you are doing. I note you have a good strong following, and your content is useful and practical.

      I am going to at this moment decline your offer because I am still evolving the Liberated Way blog and I would rather wait until I am fully sure where I am headed until I commit to any relationships with third parties.

      I wish your awesome blog every success.


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