The Paradigm of Natality opens possibilities for new beginnings. In practicing Natality, we midwife hope by bringing to light an alternative way of being. Natality has eight cornerstones. In this section, we explore regeneration and creativity.
Regeneration refers to the cyclical view of life in which birth, death and regeneration are natural phenomena that connects all natals. Regeneration describes not only our physical process but also the process of continuous creativity. The Paradigm of Natality is a culture of creativity and beauty.
The paradigm shift to Natality disrupts necrophilia’s war against nature by building a culture of creativity that celebrates regeneration and vitality.
Hannah Arendt, in The Human Condition (1958), offers a philosophy of natality that focuses on the distinctly human capacity to bring forth the new, the radical, and the unprecedented into the world (p.178). She insists that, despite the fact of death, humans do not live in order to die, but to begin. Arendt offers us three definitions of natality.
- Natality refers to the fact of birth. The activity of birth is linked with nature and organic matter which is governed by the cyclical time of life, death and regeneration (p.96). Every human enters the world as a baby, born of a mother who labours to bring the child to light. Arendt distances herself from Heidegger’s notion of birth as the loneliness of Geworfen (thrown into existence); however, like Heidegger, she holds to a Platonic dualism that disavows the mother when she claims that humans are created “ex nihilo” (Cavarero, p.6; Tyler, p.1). She keeps the birthing mother in the private sphere and does not bring her into the polis (Arendt, p.62f).
- Natality refers to belonging to a world characterized by plurality. Arendt emphasizes that each natal is born as a stranger welcomed into a caring “web of human relationships which is, as it were, woven by the deeds and words of innumerable persons, by the living as well as the dead (Arendt cited by Jantzen, p.149). Arendt does not elaborate on her concept of ancestors, but she regards each natal as ensouled and embodied. Plurality is a human condition because all humans share the experience of being different from anyone else who ever lived, lives, or will live (p.8). Plurality describes the public realm where people work together to create a world to which they feel they all belong (Arendt, p.54). The acceptance of difference is necessary for harmonious communities. The public realm is the place of “second birth” where we differentiate and take responsibility for our own creative initiatives. When people are isolated by social atomization, loneliness and the other-worldliness of fundamentalisms, they are more susceptible to totalitarianism (Arendt, p.43; Young-Bruehl, 2006, p.49; Jantzen, p.146). Arendt’s notion of natality in plurality is thus a pre-emptive resistance to totalitarianism and its ideological monoculture.
- Natality is a political philosophy in that each revolution is a new beginning (Arendt, p.9) enacted through collective creativity and agency. Initiative is the greatest political activity, and this makes natality, not mortality, the central category of Arendt’s political thought. Natality is thus the antidote to necrophilia:
The life span of man [sic] running toward death would inevitably carry everything human to ruin and destruction if it were not for the faculty of interrupting it and beginning something new, a faculty which is inherent in action like an ever-present reminder that men [sic], though they must die, are not born in order to die but in order to begin (Arendt, p.246).
Arendt never identified herself as a feminist and her use of masculinist language requires feminist readers to be forgiving in order to appreciate the depth of her ideas. Hannah Arendt’s philosophy of natality affirms life; it opens the conversation on natality and draws out the links between natality, politics, plurality, regeneration, embodiment and creativity.
Leanne Simpson is a philosopher, storyteller and activist of Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg ancestry with roots in Alderville First Nation; she suggests that the Anishinaabeg concept, mino bimaadiziwin has a deeper meaning as ‘continuous rebirth’ wherein the purpose of life is regeneration (Simpson Dancing 20). Simpson asserts that indigenous systems are designed to promote more life:
In Anishinaabeg society, our economic systems, our education systems, our systems of governance, and our political systems were designed with that basic tenet at their core… In Anishinaabeg philosophy, if you have a dream, if you have a vision, you share that with your community, and then you have a responsibility for bringing that dream forth, or that vision forth into a reality. That’s the process of regeneration. That’s the process of bringing forth more life—getting the seed and planting and nurturing it. It can be a physical seed, it can be a child, or it can be an idea. But if you’re not continually engaged in that process then it doesn’t happen (Simpson cited by Klein Dancing).
Simpson insists that Canada’s process of reconciliation must support the regeneration of indigenous languages, oral cultures, as well as traditions of governance that place women back at the centre of their nation (Simpson, Dancing 22f). In the Paradigm of Natality, we try to do just that.
All natals participate in the great cycle of birth, death and regeneration. As compostable beings, we are related to all beings on Earth.
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