Einstein said: “Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.” A huge part of my retirement has been devoted to the outdoors, whether it be out in the back yard splitting wood, deeper in the back trying to “grow” corn (another tale), or out in the deep woods hiking. I find peace and joy in the woods, something I had treasured as a boy and then lost over the years due to life and lack of time. Retirement has afforded me the luxury of time once again and I have been trying to take good advantage of that. And while at it, I have been slowly learning some life lessons as a result, even unintentionally.
This week has been a little less, at least so far. Monday is generally a hiking day – typically a long hike day – but not this one; in the angst chaos and myriad of preparations to retire, I missed renewing my truck registration, something I discovered late last week. In our state you can renew your registration online and can renew an expired one up until 90 days – after 90 days you have to go in person. I found out on day 94 – too late. So Monday morning was devoted to registration renewal, which took until noon and at that point it was too late to go hiking. I injured my hand towards the end of last week which prevented me from splitting wood through the weekend. When I got back from the registration saga, I decide to give the woodpile a try, but my ability to wail away as usual was limited as the wound is not fully healed. Yesterday I had a better go at it but still somewhat limited. None the less, still outdoors! We’ll surely get one in tomorrow and/or Friday though.
But every time I am in the woods for more than 5 minutes, I become amazed at the unity of nature. Here in the woods there is continuous delicate dance of an almost endless number of species, whether flora or fauna. Nature blends and melds effortlessly, allowing all things to coexist without war or strife or drama. Certainly there are squabbles with birds or animals, but they have their spat and move off in different directions. Plants all reach for the sun and end up all settling in locations that provide what they need. The cycle of life in the woods is vast and incredibly effective and every microbe in the forest owns a piece of it, howsoever unknowingly. Insects breakdown whatever dies and facilitate returning the carcass to earth. Bees gather their food and while doing so, pollinate the plants to ensure the species will reproduce and spread.
In nature there is balance; and when balance is lost due to changing conditions, it finds a way to restore its balance. In nature there is no waste; everything is used, consumed, and recycled – naturally – death leads to life and life leads to death. The more time I spend in nature, the more impressed I become with its perfection. But here is where I struggle with Einstein’s quote; I am looking deeper and while I am understanding more and more of the perfection of it, the more confused I become of the human condition.
Let’s face it, humanity has had ample time on this earth to “figure it out” and “get it right”. Nature abounds in lessons and is free for the observing. But for a supposedly superior species (not my words!) we have managed a bloody mess of all this – of our human nature. Anger – rage – is rampant. There is little honor remaining, altruism is fast becoming an all too unfamiliar trait. It is all about the good and rights of the one and the many be damned. Were nature to behave in this manner, our planet would become a barren lifeless rock very quickly. Yet so many fail to see it, to recognize it.
Hope is not lost – ever – there is always hope. Retirement has afforded me the chance to spend more time looking at the various data streams that assail us all by the second; news, social media, and the like. And daily I am besieged with stories and examples of the dark side of human behavior; the intolerance, impatience, and disregard of others. Yet search just a little bit more and there are ample examples that prove that good remains and is pulsing along just under the surface of the ugliness we all hear about. There are acts of random kindness, selflessness, and nobility occurring daily; we just aren’t exposed to them as often as the bad things because the good news lacks sensationalism. But they are out there.
I recently posted a short comment on FB about the town’s firework display: truly the best in as far back as I can recall. And in the comments, someone wrote “It’s so nice to read a positive post on here for a change…” Most people detest the constant negativity, whining, and complaining; they seek positivity and reinforcement that good is still out there. But why are we so increasingly being bombarded with hate and discontent? Why are we so divisive, so fragmented, so polarized? I maintain it is the minority, the overly vocal few who are the fuel at the heart of so many of the fires. But there is more, I wrote recently about lack of patience – what I termed “instant pudding”. And I think that plays a big part in all this. But there is more…
Nature has no imagination, no dreams, no visualizations. Don’t get me wrong, there is no beauty such as what nature offers us – nature is breathlessly spectacular. But it is not from idle speculation, it is by design born of need; flowers each have their specific scents and colors to attract the exact insect that they need in order to pollinize. Every creature and plant looks, smells, and behaves as they do in order to ensure their propagation and survival; not because they are trying to get “likes” on Instagram! Nature does what it does to exist. And that is a big part of how we have slowly drifted away from the lessons of nature over the years. With the advent of immediate and limitless information at our literal fingertips, instant global communication, and the ever increasing list of technological advances that provide us more and more free time, which has left us to our own devices (pun intended!).
So it becomes crystal clear to me now that Einstein was indeed right; get out into nature; watch it, observe it, learn from it, and you will understand everything better. Ironically, I believe it is enough to just get out into nature and to experience it; your attitude will change, your spirit will flourish, and your heart will fill just from being out in it. Today’s lesson in life…..