By Richard Daley
Various wisdom traditions throughout time have laid down many paths for their followers.
“Follow this path, and you shall find deliverance” they exclaim. These paths may, for some, guide them to real and pure enlightenment. Who am I to say otherwise? These provided pearls of wisdom may, in fact, furnish insights that arm an individual with a weapon to crush the perils of the world: a hammer to flatten the harsh reality we live in.
Maybe this will enable one to leave behind a smoldering rubble of a past unfulfilled and unsatisfied version of oneself. Obviously, this is only one example of the plethora of ways to contentment or “happiness” that is available—and actively marketed to us—each and every day.
Contemporary life seems to encourage us to either look into the lives of others, or into our inner-selves to find solace.
Endless swiping; scrolling through the world of empty promises and desperate marketing—a sad life inside a glass world. We end up either comparing ourselves to others in unnatural and unhealthy ways, or we start to wonder what we must do to improve ourselves. Maybe we start to covet these lives that seem so perfect, so shareable, textured by filters that burn an image of what must be attainable perfection into our minds.
What do we find when the “you are all caught up” alert pops up? Where are we left when we have consumed all possible news and breaking content? We are quite literally, swiping our lives away.
Take a scroll on social media nowadays and it is clear the market is rich with those trying to sell us their variety of cure-all concoctions: A way out of our collective despair, out of disconnection and loneliness.
Many of them adorned with life coaching certificates or an ancestral empowerment. We seek collectivity, yet we get lost in individuality and the idea that we must improve ourselves to find what we are looking for. Will their purchased moral support help us as we wander a world that seems to have forgotten about community and mutual support? A world where most people won't even eat banana bread from their neighbor, but will believe in the words of a “trauma-informed” stranger on a curated stream of images and videos.
For others, maybe it is the news cycle that is their digital drug of choice.
Want to be left polarized? Lose your critical thinking skills? Subscribe to your media channel of choice, and watch the “related content” pour in and fit the narrative like the glove fit O. J. Isn't it obvious that political polarization is dividing people like a guillotine?
What is often missed, is that this division is by design, and spoon fed through one's favorite digital soda tap---just another spoke in the wheel of community dissolution, moving people farther and farther apart when we should be coming together and rebuilding community and collectivity.
There is always a beautifully packaged item waiting for you to purchase.
Even if that object doesn't actually exist in the material world. This (let's call it a thing) is marketed to you in so many ways that if they were listed on paper it would be a tome so thick, that if it fell off the bookshelf it would most certainly crush you, and your soul. All these apps and digital grim reapers come for you, perfectly designed and packaged by experts in psychology and the manipulation of your mind. If something is free, you are the product.
The collection of data is a big business. Let us not get lost within it.
What about if we put down our phones, left the digital world, and sought natural contentment? What does this mean exactly? Well, I must admit, at first it does sound a bit ambiguous. So, I will attempt to explain my particular aim.
We as humans all share a common mission: the seeking of contentment in this very life. Sadly, many people live their lives blind to the very resource that is boundless in it's ability to help on this task. That resource is the natural world--- nature. Instead, many live recklessly in a kind of greedy delusional reality. Most seem to be chasing after sensual pleasures and useless, brand name objects. Within this existence, they attempt to find for themselves this elusive “happiness,” all the while missing out on the beauty of Nature, and the innate connection to the natural world that lives inside of us all.
I am a firm believer in the American biologist and naturalist E. O. Wilson's views regarding the natural world.
In his "biophilia hypothesis" he essentially states that we all have within us an innate connection with Nature, we all share it—even if some live their lives blind to it. Again, we all possess this tendency to seek out connections with Nature, and other forms of life.
I accept this idea as fact, and I find it disheartening, and to be honest, depressing, that so many people spend many of their waking hours staring at phones, and ignoring the natural world. If Nature has this ability to help us find this contentment we seek, to help us make sense of the uncertain and confusing world that we all inhabit; why then do we destroy and desecrate it?
We sadly have been brainwashed into a culture built on greed and exploitation, and the natural world is just another victim on a list of destruction. In our society it seems everything from personal achievements to corporate boardrooms are about more, more, more. Pair this with a designed and injected disconnection from our roots in Nature, sold to us by the idea that anything can be bought if we just have enough money—even personal happiness and fulfillment—mixes up into a deadly potion.
A new geological era has even been proposed by some scientists, they have named it the Anthropocene.
They view the time we are currently living in as a period where human activity is the dominant influence on the climate and environment.
Humans trample the ground, remove topsoil, and build our buildings—even though there are plenty of empty ones. We poison waterways with agricultural chemicals. We exploit animals—farm them in ridiculous and environmentally detrimental ways. We drive our car a quarter mile to the grocery store because we are too lazy to walk. We lack the care and interest in our neighbors, yet we often use the term community.
No system is perfect, and no system will be perfect; nonetheless, without community and the connection to the natural world that makes us human, we are lost. It seems disaster upon disaster are compounding on top of each other like our discarded material objects filling up another landfill.
Yet, there is hope in some of our actions.
We still hike. We fish. We take walks through Nature. We camp. We build gardens, community gardens, and urban agricultural projects. We go kayaking. We go for walks in the forest or on nature paths. We take trips to view the spectacular changing foliage of autumn—this senescence, this death, is beautiful to us.
The leaves fall only for them to grow back in the near future, fresh and green—reminding us that there is a cycle that will happen with, or without us. The connection we feel to Nature is only right below the surface. Hidden from us so often by the glowing screens of digital devices. Lift the veil, and admit to yourself that you need more Nature in your life.
We should take pride in this. It should elicit joy and affection, because the Earth and Nature are our keepers, our providers, and the stalwart supporters that keep on giving. We must break the cycle of taking, and regenerate what has been damaged. If we do not do these things, we will be continuing down a dark path. Think about our children, our children's children. As cliché as this may sound, it is entirely necessary.
How sad it would be, to live a life where one misses out on the beauty of Nature?
To adopt a philosophy where you aim to live more in harmony with Nature is noble, and worthy of praise. We all can take little steps to do better. My hope is that I have jolted this inclination within you, and laid bare a truth that is hidden from many people. It doesn't require much explanation or elaboration, if we contemplate this truth of our connection to the natural world, it is hard to deny or turn away from.
Early humans lived much more sustainably within their respective ecosystems for a very, very, long time.
So, I believe that we are capable of making shifts, and trying to do the same. I for one, will absolutely eat banana bread from my neighbor, walk to the grocery store when I can, reduce my use of plastics, attempt to build community, and do my best to be a beneficial member of our human society.
I won't just post some shit on social media about it.
So, get outside, leave your device, and a live a little. Seek out that natural contentment, and maybe, if you look hard enough, you will find it.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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