Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Drinking in nature: A worldwide experience?

In so many ways I am very lucky, and it is always good to acknowledge this.

Over the festive season we’ve been exploring the surrounding area a bit more on our dog walks, heading more for the downs (hills) than the Thames valley floor. The latter has been a bit muddy (if not flooded).

A few days ago we walked around the villages of Ipsden and Hailey and along a bit of the Chiltern way and Icknield Way walks. The pictures I took really don’t do justice to the scenery.

I stopped to take some photos because a thought occurred to me during a quiet and still moment as I gazed over the hills and valleys.

The thought was that there could be millions of people over the world doing something very similar to me at that moment—appreciating the stillness or majesty of the natural world.

Others might have been on a ship the sea, on a boat on a lake or river bend, in the mountains, surrounded by trees or on a plain. But were others also experiencing that absent-minded moment taking in a scene? I expect some were.

We were no doubt in a significant minority among the global population. Maybe a few thousand, maybe a million. Certainly not more—most people would be sleeping, eating, moving, entertained, worrying, hustling; all things we must do as humans. Many people would get very little opportunity to experience that kind of quiet scene.

I imagined flipping between those different people’s views, all different but unified and connected in some unreal manner. All swapping places for a split second with one another. Flicking between our views like a rapid slideshow.

No doubt a poet could express my thought much better.

My fellows and I might have completely opposed, maybe even alien, worldviews. Our cultural and religious attitudes could be radically conflicting. We are primarily social creatures, understanding the world through our language and cultural upbringing. We are different from any other species in that respect, we rely much more on knowledge rather than instinct and knowledge is transferred by language.

However, is this experiencing of nature potentially one of those universal human experiences that completely cuts across cultural differences? Mostly universal human experiences are going to be biological functions such as eating. Perhaps laughing and loving might also cut across cultural and linguistic divides as does experiencing nature?

During the cold war the great philosopher Sting said “I hope the Russians love their children too” perhaps making the same point at a time when mass destruction was quite a live option. Nuclear war hasn’t been such a prominent concern for a while, though chances might rise if the current US President thinks it might help him avoid impeachment or losing an election.

I’m very fortunate that I live somewhere I can access quiet nature; I have the time to go for walks and we have a car to get there quickly and easily. Many others won’t be so fortunate; those in a busy city, a slum or a refugee camp might have little opportunity to get away.

But at times like these, when there are those seeking to divide us in so many ways, it is good to appreciate the little ways we are perhaps united. That we all matter and that the quiet of certain kinds of natural environments matters too.

1 comment:

dougbamford said...

...and yes I know the downs are heavily farmed so aren't a completely 'natural' environment like some of my other examples. However, for a short while there was no immediate human presence: no noises from cars on roads and so sign of other people.

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