Nature As The Antidote To Cynicism

“The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”

–Carl Sagen

I’ve always been deeply intrigued by the seemingly undeniable relationship between science and spirituality. We work in the city for 50 weeks out of the year and then spend our two weeks of vacation in a wooded cabin, ocean-side hut, or tent along a secluded river. We long to escape the business–to shut off our cell phones, and tune back into nature’s song.

It is incredibly easy to become negative and cynical in a fast-paced world that is every-vying for your attention. It is so easy to lose sight of where we came from, and what we–as human–are in comparison to the vastness of the universe. We’re mere specks of stardust: significant, yet simultaneously everything but.

“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains?”  Nature remains.”

–Walt Whitman

On a weekly basis, I propose that my boyfriend and I exit our current lives and go somewhere remote and live off the land. We could sell the house and buy a huge plot of scenic land butting up to a National Park and build a yurt; we could grow our own food; we could provide ourselves the opportunity to stand in awe of nature every single day.

Awe is the moment when ego surrenders to wonder. You don’t get that in the city. It’s unfortunate.

I try to incorporate small life hacks into my daily routine: a backyard garden, walks around the adjacent lake, weekend hiking trips, and intention mindfulness. It makes a significant difference, but doesn’t quite fill to void. City life has stripped away the best some of the best parts of life, and added elements that I imagine future generations will be ashamed of.

“The irony of our existence is this: We are infinitesimal in the grand scheme of evolution, a tiny organism on Earth. And yet, personally, collectively, we are changing the planet through our voracity, the velocity of our reach, our desires, our ambitions, and our appetites. We multiply, our hunger multiplies, and our insatiable craving accelerates.

Consumption is a progressive disease.

We believe in more, more possessions, more power, more war. Anywhere, everywhere our advance of aggression continues.

My aggression toward myself is the first war.

Wilderness is an antidote to the war within ourselves.”

–Terry Tempest Williams

I firmly believe that nature is the best medicine, a reminder of the smallness our daily anxieties in the broad scope of life. Trust me, screwing up that spreadsheet and that pesky pimple on your chin aren’t going to ruin your life.

Yet, we become entangled with the elementary concerns so easily, as if ensnared in a spider’s web. We waste so much time worrying.

I particularly long for nature on rough days: when the traffic, the workload, and the people I’m surrounded by are simply too much. It’s when I’m feeling the most defeated that I dream of lying on the damp floor of a forest and staring up at the tree tops, of listening to the creek flow by and smelling the fresh scent of petrichor.

Nature simply exists. There is no self-interest. Rather, its an active participant–the gracious host–in the circle of life. When you’re unplugged, alone, and away from it all, it is so easy to see. But then, when we return home, it’s far to easy to forget.

I am beginning to believe that nature itself is our mightiest antidote to sadness, cynicism, and anxiety. I’m starting to think that we are too concerned with plugging the holes in our heart with pharmaceuticals, forgetting the best and most permanent suture is free and simple: standing in awe of the world around us.

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