I had a rather startling experience the other day when taking a group of young ladies, my students, out for a field trip. The purpose of the journey was to simply be more aware, and gain an increased cognizance of the world around us.
What was most remarkable was that they felt as if we were going on a real adventure — a journey into the wild unknown. This, of course, posits the question, of how often had they been exposed to something in the environment other than concrete, school work, and the phone. Not frequently, I am sure. And they are not alone, however.
Few of us today are truly exposed to the beauty and, conversely, the aggression of the living world. At its most extreme, the majority of individuals would be vegetarians if they had visited an abattoir when young.
Nature, in the majority of civilized societies, has become hidden and foreboding. (1) Many rail against the evils of climate change and environmental collapse, but it is not truly felt, in my estimation. We are just too distant, too technologically advanced, whatever that means. So how can we possibly reintegrate our species into a more meaningful relationship with each other, the natural world, God, and the universe?
We have to first start with our view of competitiveness. It is good to compete, and to strive for perfection, I believe. The lesson here, as Aristotle tells us, (2) is in the odyssey itself — our striving for self-improvement and amelioration along the way. I must compete with myself for refinement, I cannot enhance my life by besting my fellow man. The realization of a goal can — at best — only give another goal.
One very simple way to begin is to surround oneself with beauty. Through my prayers, I must affirm, each and every day, how fortunate I am to be me, and to have been given my gift of life. In all the rocks, the bugs, and the bees of the universe, I have somehow been given consciousness.
Then, I need a physical representation of elegance to look at and reflect on. This can be realized in a flower, an object, or a painting, for example. The glow and warmth wrought from these images will shield me against the vagaries of the day. One added suggestion is to go to a park for five minutes, take off your shoes and your socks, and put your naked feet on the grass. It is remarkably calming for most.
So to be a part of the living world, of nature, I must make an effort. She is just in front of me, but I must take the time to converse with her. Henry David Thoreau (3) leaves us with a thought: I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
A closing thought: Many pundits throughout history have extolled the values of the natural world. They are now, for the most part, not believed. We have become too smug. What is the answer? A recent Bloomberg piece (4) may offer a way forward. Stop the distractions and pay more attention to life — observe more, reflect longer, and grow your connection with infinity.
To sum up: This week we spoke about how to be a part of the natural world.
To be noted: From George Bancroft (5) — Beauty, like truth and justice, lives within us.
Just for fun:
This week, on your reflective stroll, please stare at the nature all around you.
Every day look for something magical and beautiful.
Don’t be a wage slave – critical thinking is great!
Quote: Realize that you are a part of all there is, was, and will be.