My Name is Sean Paxton and I Am a Biophiliac

Originally published December 20, 2009. As I relaunch this site, I’m pleased to report my condition has only intensified.

I made the self-diagnosis of biophelia after hiking on a cloudy and crisp 40-degree morning here in southwest Florida with my adopted canine companion, JD (Jane Doe). I remember a heightened sense of awareness. Of being propelled by an unspoken, but mutually realized sense of primal aliveness. Outside together in time for a rising sun. Just us with the wind in our hair. We both felt wild. Each of us knew it and we liked it.

Jane Doe aka JD

I am grateful for the thousands of miles my family shared with JD during our 15 years together, and I credit her for prompting me to conduct a more invasive self-examination of chronic symptoms I’ve experienced my entire life. Instinctive wants and needs to be outside. As much as possible. Close to wild places, creatures and things. Man amongst the beasts in their natural habitat. Every time I’ve answered the call, life doesn’t just seem better. It is. Fuller on every level and the effects are lasting.  

Turns out, to varying degrees the human animal is wired biologically with biophilia so you‘ve got it too. Embrace it. Love it like a pet rock. It’s a good thing. An addiction in its own right, but without harmful side effects. Mine also drives most of the work I do, and have done for a long time now, further qualifying me as a functioning biopheliac.

Northerly winds with spitting gun metal gray skies. It’s like a York Peppermint Patty for the soul.

From Wikipedia et al. The biophelia hypothesis suggests there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. Edward O. Wilson introduced and popularized the hypothesis in his book entitled Biophilia.

E. O. Wilson

Love of Living Systems. The term biophilia literally means love of life or living systems. It was first used by Erich Fromm to describe a psychological orientation of being attracted to all that‘s alive and vital. Wilson uses the term in the same sense when he suggests biophilia describes, “the connections human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life.” He proposed a possibility. “Deep affiliations humans have with nature is rooted in our biology.”

Unlike phobias, which are the aversions and fears people have of things in the natural world, philias are the attractions and positive feelings people have toward certain habitats, activities, and objects in their natural surroundings. To many people, “nature” means plants as in a park or forest, but the weather and animals are also closely involved. It’s also been said where Biophiliacs live can explain much of their behavior. 

'Mr. Bigs'. a North American alligator in the 12 foot, 700 pound category. We’re fortunate to have predators like this inhabiting our backyard.

Striking Aspect of Biophelia. Similarly, the hypothesis helps explain why ordinary people care for and sometimes risk their lives to save domestic and wild animals, and keep plants and flowers in and around their homes, thus our natural love for life helps sustain life.

Product of Biological Evolution. Human preferences toward things in nature, while refined through experience and culture, are hypothetically the product of biological evolution. For example, adult mammals (especially humans) are attracted to baby mammal faces and we find them appealing across species. The large eyes and small features of any young mammal face are far more appealing than those of the mature adults. The biophilia hypothesis suggests the positive emotional response adult mammals have toward baby mammals across species helps increase the survival rates of all mammals.

My brother, Brooks Paxton. Also a highly functioning biopheliac.

Any hypothesis uses limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation so it’s technically not a ‘real’ form of philia or clinical condition. As a layman interpreter, it does explain much of the how and why my interests and preoccupations evolved into obsessions and occupations. Maybe there is a method behind the madness after all and a connection to and with nature plays a key role.

Thanks for reading. {sp}