The device you are reading this on has limits.
Were you to go on a trek in the extreme heat or cold, you would be presented with the fact that as advanced as the technology that constitutes such a device may be, it has optimal functioning parameters outside which it simply will refuse to work.
Human bodies, while not exactly having computer chips inside of us, work in a similar way. We are certainly incredibly adaptable and can function in some of the most unorthodox environments, but this is not to be confused with any level of optimum performance.
What are the parameters that allow us to function most optimally? Have we abandoned the lives which would give us the most satisfaction?
Millions, perhaps billions, of us have since forgone the ways of living that our forefathers experienced. We left behind our interwoven relationship with the world and instead made it subservient to us, extracting everything we could from it and abusing its treasures.
Our cities have become monuments to our domination and represent a world of our own making. One where – at worst – almost all the aspects of existing in harmony with nature are hidden away. We are given the fruits of labour within any appreciation for the sweat and toil required to produce it. This does little but foster feelings of disassociation and indifference to the state of our planet, our home.
And yet despite the comforts we have to hand so easily, many of us feel a sense of loss, a sense of longing for something simpler. We awe at nature when we see it in all its majestic glory. We feel instinctively humbled at the sublime. Our comfortable city lives are blessings in many ways, but despite our advancements, it is the blossoming clouds, the long grass dancing back and forth on a windy day, it is these faces of the world allow us to feel truly at ease.
As Roger Scruton eloquently stated:
“When you pause to study the perfect form of a wildflower or the blended feathers of a bird, you experience an enhanced sense of belonging. A world that makes room for such things makes room for you.”
Knowing that you live in a world of such beauty allows us to feel the ever longing feeling of being accepted and of being ‘at home’.
Once we have ascended this peak, once we have crossed this mental milestone, we see yet another peak before us; one that is visible only from the plateau we have just ascended.
We come closer to understanding that we are part of this very world we are experiencing. ‘Nature’ is not necessarily an abstract term used to define the world around us, conveniently separating ourselves from the equation. We are not idle observers to the great conversation happening around us.
In her book ‘Biomimicry’, Janine Benyus says:
“This literal immersion in nature prepares us for the figurative immersion. This is where we take our reasoned minds and stuff them back into our bodies, realizing that there is no membrane separating us from the natural world…”
Being in and around nature rekindles both our sense of belonging and our feeling of oneness with the world. We cannot abuse our environment and keep its consequences out of mind, intentionally oblivious to any of the results of our deeds. We have a duty of care, preservation and responsibility to our only home, and this is first understood by realising that we are an active part of it.
Perhaps this is why a popular Japanese form of eco-therapy known as ‘Forest Bathing’ exists. Participants spend time in nature to soak up its atmosphere in order to improve their wellbeing. Being physically in and around nature speaks to us and opens the door to understanding our responsibilities towards it.
The physical precedes the mental.