The Department of Lost and Found:
How Nature deludes us into acting in our best interests
vol. 4 issue 8
Although where I live is urban, there is by happenstance, a small patch of fairly mature woodland behind and to the side of where my apartment high rise sits, looming as it does, much too close to the meandering creek beside it.
I say happenstance because any thoughtful zoning that would have intentionally preserved the green space around my neighborhood was most certainly not in place in the 1960s, when the race for dominance over the as-of-yet undeveloped, and thus lucrative, Maryland boundary with Northwest Washington was apace.
I’m telling you this because lately I have become aware of how much actual information, and most important, insight, the little woods and creek have imparted to me, compared with how little information, and zero insight the vortex of social, corporate, and most other media has imparted to me, even though proportionally, I spend far more time sucked into it than I do the presence of the woods.
I’ve been noting the differences.
Daily, in part because the dog has needs, and also because as a habitual over-thinker, I too have a need to clear my head, I walk along the pathway that wends through the woods. I often scramble down the boulders and to the banks of the creek, too. Over time, this has meant I have become familiar with the woods, the creek, and the little critters and birds that live within. I have developed a relationship with this patch of nature, it is accurate to say. I would even call it an intimacy.
This morning, as I was walking through the stand of tulip poplars that guard the entrance to a small clearing where dog owners often let their pooches off leash, it occurred to me how much information I take in daily in my short strolls: which birds are here, and perhaps most important, which ones were but now are not; whether the violets have found the strength to muscle through the invasive Japanese fig buttercup to jostle in place for the sunlight; which trees’ root systems have been further exposed by the latest weather or sewer spill calamity; whether there is litter in the creek that needs fishing out, and so on.
I take it all in.
But what does the little patch take from me? Ostensibly, nothing. Except Nature is sly, I suppose, because something of mine has been exchanged: apathy. The more time I spend in “my” little patch of nature, the more incumbent upon me it is to care, to keep noticing, to invest in its upkeep.
This is the sleight of hand: now, when there is a crisis of erosion and pollution threatening the woods and the creek, I must do something about it because I have seen it. I know from simple observation what has shifted. I feel an obligation to intercede. A dear friend is in need.
Nature has arranged herself just so that when her chips are down, she knows she can call on me to shore her up.
There is no chance I could turn my back on my Natural friend. She has become too important to my peace of mind. Were I to lose her, where would my eye fall amidst the unbroken line of concrete? Where would I go to connect with her, and therefore with myself? Would I be lost, too?
What I have done as a result of my observations is not the point, that I have done something at all, is. Through my actions, I have discovered how much others also had been developing such a bond with the little woods, a discovery that has led me to become still more connected to my home and my community. Most important is that this broadening out of my own intention and attention has also caused me to feel hope in a way that buoys me up generally.
That is the key difference between Nature’s story and that of the media morass.
Nature connects us from the inside out, ties us together first. She then tentacles out to bind us with what and who is around us. I have found this energizing.
Consuming mountains of media, in my experience leads nowhere but to anxiety and despair. Exhaustion. When we fixate on the media, and especially and ironically “social” media, we fray and fragment. We are perhaps connected, but it is from the outside in, and so is not organic to us, but intrusive. Ultimately, it is corrosive. With its relentless, prescriptive personas, admonitions never ceasing about who we should be, who we are, what stories are and aren’t true, it wears us down without fortifying what is beneath us.
Meanwhile, Nature just is, and with and among it, we just are. Have you ever felt judged by a tree?
“The Media” — especially in a Capitalist world where the point of it all is to fixate on the leader, the top, whoever is in charge — demands our attention. Capital, after all, is the Latin for “head”. Don’t connect with what is around you, fixate only on what is at the top, the head, where you should wish to one day be.
Because The Media, and especially those who gain power from manipulating it, has cultivated our obedience, it is easy to forget that without our attention, The Media could not exist.
And yet, The Media is not going away; it offers too much utility. But why should it dominate our inner landscape, ultimately tearing it down so that it towers above us, until there is nowhere for the inner eye to rest? It is up to us to decide The Media’s fate, or at least participate in shaping it.
Nature, however, doesn’t need us, and likely doesn’t give a damn what happens to us. It sure seems Nature would fare far better if we selfish humans would all die off, an outcome we collectively are achieving with haste by doing what? Killing Nature!
Well, so we think. Nature, not us, will have the last word. Nature preceded us, she will succeed us. Killing her is ultimately impossible. The planet may or may not continue, but the Allness in which it spins will.
To think we can obliterate Nature is just another conceit uttered from our disconnected places, where we are deluded into thinking it is we humans that sit at the head of the cosmic table.
Nature is indeed sly. In caring about my little patch of woods and its bubbling creek, it is not Nature I am shoring up, but myself. The greedy Media could never deliver such returns.
Meanwhile, Nature is gracious enough to make me think it’s all about me helping her.
Thanks for reading. Next issue will feature my podcast with Greg Olear (pronounced Oh-lee-are). Woot! I recorded it yesterday. Greg is the publisher of Prevail, a newsletter dedicated to connecting the dots of the skulduggery made possible by our obedience to the lines drawn around our attention. Greg’s highly entertaining but also informative work counteracts our collective lack of curiosity surrounding what might be happening out of bounds. Little activities like, you know, the decimation of democracy. It’s anti-Media media.
Greg is an excellent raconteur, has a bit of a potty mouth (which I will not bleep out in order to honor his mojo), and is really smart. Plus, he’s funny. Best of all, he thinks that in the end, it is goodness that will PREVAIL. And I agree.