“I think, therefore I am” is a well-known phrase from Rene Descartes, (1) said at the beginning of the Enlightenment. (2) I would add, “I observe, therefore I think, therefore I am.” The power to take notice of the world around me is a skill that must be nurtured and enhanced. I recently took a group of senior high school students on a walk to a local, prominent venue. It was a site that most would pass by on a daily basis. What confounded me were their comments on the beauty of the locale, the majesty of the towering trees, and the exciting feeling of the blustery day.
Now to be fair, when I was 18 years old, I had little understanding of the world around me. The difference being that in my isolated industrial village, nature was literally thrust upon you. It was serious, alive even, and it could and did kill you. Hence, you developed an intrinsic respect for the bigger world of the environment.
That reality is now over for most people. The Anthropocene Age (3) has descended upon mankind. The natural world no longer controls humanity, we now dominate and subjugate Mother Earth — much to our peril, quite obviously.
Our powers of observation thus, are now more necessary than ever, but they are almost entirely removed from thoughtfulness through the white noise of social media. Even more stunning is the amount of the old who are removing themselves from paying attention, (4) thereby failing to transfer their gifts to the young.
Where I take the most issue, however, is with a lack of observation with the inner self. I recently stood beside a girl at a religious service. All she did was look, play, and scroll through her phone. How could you open the door to the self if you don’t spend the time? You don’t of course. She later posed the question — to paraphrase – How do you find the purpose to life? It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But, this is the reality that we live in today.
So what can I do? It is a truism to state that the only person I can truly change is myself. Given that this gives a veracious account of me, I am liberated to become the person I must be — a manifestation of my mission in life. Others will view me as a role model and the cycle of change will begin.
This was how Gandhi, for one, overthrew the British Empire in India. He observed that the Indian people wanted change. His saying: My life is my message. Aristotle Onassis (5) leaves us with a thought: It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.
A closing thought: the next time you want to be observant, I can suggest two courses of action. On a particularly stressful day, find a park with a bit of grass. Take your shoes and socks off and go for a walk. This will produce a sense of freshness and connectedness with God, Gaia, or the Universe. A complimentary exercise is to lie on the grass, face down, and study the flowers and the activity of the living world — its bugs and other tiny fauna. Both are freeing and reinvigorating experiences.
To sum up: This week we spoke about being observant of the living world around us.
To be noted: From Alexander Graham Bell (6) — When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has opened for us.
Just for fun:
This week, on your spirited walk, please study the world around you.
Every day look for something magical and beautiful.
Don’t be a wage slave – critical thinking is great!
Quote: To live fully, observe both your inner and outer worlds.
1) Will Durant — René Descartes (1596 – 1650)
4) The battle against loneliness among older people
5) Aristotle Onassis
6) The Machines That Built America: Alexander Graham Bell’s Revolutionary Invention (S1) | History