Monday July 8, 2013
Over the years I have been blessed to share my life journey with a number of friends, teachers and mentors. I have gathered much wisdom in formal academic settings, independent research, casual conversations and supposed coincidental encounters. I am most grateful for the many opportunities that I have enjoyed. One piece of wisdom that stands out in my mind is the healing power of the natural world. I still vividly recall some of the amazing wisdom that my friend Ilarion Merculieff has previously shared with me. Ilarion is an Aleut elder; he has previously worked for the Alaska Native Science Commission. I remember him encouraging me to spend time out in nature.
This recommendation has been floating through my mind as of late since I received my diagnosis. And I have reflected on the wisdom within his words. Indeed, why should time spent in nature prove to be so nurturing? I believe there are many reasons. But the reason I have had in the forefront of my consciousness recently is that nature has no agenda.
Nature has no agenda. What do I mean by that? There is such a fundamental distinction between how the natural world operates and how human beings behave. The natural world's many systems function according to some basic principles including laws of physics and laws of thermodynamics. There may very well be a unitive consciousness of the planet as a whole as some scientists and thinkers have proposed over the years. But regardless of what we ultimately discover in regards to this not insignificant question I believe I can correctly assert that the natural world's functioning clearly demonstrates it lacks something that humans practice all too often. Nature lacks premeditation.
Premeditation is itself a loaded term. Many a person will likely think of this word in connection to the realm of law. Here I mean premeditation to indicate a pattern of thinking and acting which is based in the fallacious notion that we can force our lives and world to evolve in a certain way. Some might believe such thinking is done by the "strategic" part of our minds (if there is indeed such a part). The belief that we humans can forcibly make certain outcomes occur through sheer force of will (perhaps combined with conscious intention and creative visualization) I find to be humorous and indicative of human hubris.
I do not discount the power of human intention and effort. To accomplish anything in the world we indeed must exert our wills in accordance with goals we have set that we find of value. But at a certain point we will ultimately be confronted by the fact that there is only so much we can do. If we are of healthy body and mind we will hopefully eventually recognize that not a single one of us exists in isolation. We are indeed members of a constantly evolving and transforming planet and Cosmos. To believe that the world is static is to believe a delusion. And so in a sense we eventually come face to face with the necessity to practice another skill, namely the skill of letting go.
I have been reflecting on letting go quite a bit as of late. Now that I am working to restructure my life so that I may improve my health and thereby eliminate my diagnosis I realize I must find the humility to accept that I need to let go of a previous meta-narrative as to how my life might and "should" evolve. Letting go does not imply (at least in my thinking) that I give up on goals I determine to be of personal value to me. Letting go can mean I actually trust more fully that my life is evolving exactly as it should such that I walk the journey that leads me to my best possible life. Do you know what your best possible life is?
And thus I come to a larger question. What indeed is my best possible life? Do I know what it is? Is there a wisdom beyond me and much larger than what my own intellect can know that will somehow steer me there if I simply let go? I would like to believe such a cosmic wisdom exists.
I see the wisdom of nature reflected in the multitude of ways its many elements let go and change. When autumn comes and the nights grow cold the leaves of deciduous trees do not cling and remain green in the face of the shortening days. When days lengthen the ice of frozen lakes bows to the warmer days and passes away. Spring replaces winter. Summer replaces spring. Autumn replaces summer. And winter replaces autumn. And on it goes. Nature does not display premeditation.
Nature has no agenda.