Nature and our True Selves
Lately, I’ve been thinking how when out in nature, I feel more like myself. In fact, I believe all—or most of us—do. We feel better. Freer. More open to possibility. More aware, alert, and at ease. Out walking in the natural surround, we—as French Philosopher, Frédéric Gros asserts in his lovely book, A Philosophy of Walking—“escape from the very idea of identity, the temptation to be someone, to have a name and a history.”
It’s true: in nature, no one—person or animal—judges us—though I do wonder about those ogling crows and their corvid cousins. Out in the brambles and forest, we are free from the bondage of social expectation.
We can—and very well should—be our silly selves: playful, open, creative, curious, giddy with wonder. We can act as children, the increasingly rare, unencumbered sort. The kind that does just fine without “homework” and “baseball practice”, and French and piano and ballet lessons.
Vitality and Ourselves in Nature
Free from social pressures, we can focus on the task at hand: the task of being. In nature—where the city’s straight, angular assault of our senses takes on a softer edge—we replenish our attention. We cast aside irritation, agitation, angst, frustration; we are truly free. Our attention restored, we are our ideal selves, our true selves. Ourselves.
Being who we are energizes us. We feel awake and vital. We have the energy to do and make. As Thoreau knew—a man who walked upward of half his waking life rambling through woods and pasture—nature vitalizes us.
Wither Nature, Wither our Souls?
Over the past few decades, and at an accelerating rate in the past few years, this nature-induced vitality has dimmed. While most of us live our lives in cities, our cells remember the majority of human history unfolding in nature-embedded villages.
As we humans entered the city gates, we assimilated to human-centric living, ever more estranging ourselves from our more-than-human kin.
And now? Not only do we fail to encounter wild nature in our swelling cities, our collective memory of a nature-filled past fades as University administrators erase natural history from college coursework.
And as people studying biology retreat from the bio-diverse fields and into sterile labs. Or as leaders in our corporate-occupied governments invest in techno-fixes that promise capital profits, rather than profits for people and planet.
Divorced from nature and wilderness, many of us fail to understand or sense that our modern way of living—including a way riddled with solar panels—continues:
- poisoning the earth’s water bodies;
- stamping out entire swaths of suitable habitat for humans and non-humans alike;
- leaving toxic tailings at any and all mining sites;
- warming the biosphere;
- desalinating our oceans;
- drying up potable water sources;
- turning the heat up in impervious urban areas; and
- melting glacial ice forms, among countless other atrocities.
One less obvious, yet the insidious impact of our decimation of the earth is the denial of our human animal nature. For only with and in reference to the natural world are we truly ourselves, truly human.
What are We to Do?
As the global population balloons and urban and suburban development devour our deserts and forests and grasslands, the job of restoring that which is wild, untamed, and beautiful seems daunting at best.
Thoughtful, kindred folks, such as those with the Dark Mountain Project have conceded to the powers of globalization that largely determine our fate. They recognize the irreconcilable damage our modern cultures have created and have opted to express their anguish through striking art, music, poetry, wordplay, theater.
I find their method of coping laudable. The world would indeed benefit from a flourishing of beauty.
Yet another, complementary approach beckons. It calls upon us to start listening to our more-than-human kin again. To sense their suffering and help them re-create spaces, places to call home.
And at first, these places can be small. Single pollinator gardens. Wild pocket parks. Community orchards.
Then, like a flower blossoming in late spring, slowly, elegantly over time, we can connect these niches to create something grander. Pollinator “corridors.” Whole, contiguous forests. Vast, complete grasslands. Right into the heart and souls of our towns and cities. For by recreating nature, we begin the journey of restoring our ideal selves, our true selves, ourselves.Follow SethLaJ307