Lately I’ve felt very grateful for the isolation of my hilltop perch far removed from the chaos of global affairs. Has the world really become an uncertain, turbulent and unharmonious place to be right now? The lyrics of Elvis Costello’s “what’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding” couldn’t be more relevant. As is my bent, I started thinking about what we can learn from nature and her wisdoms to help us make sense of it all.
The positive effects of connecting with nature have been well documented and include improvements in creativity, health and wellbeing and happiness. But have our busy multitasking lives, left us no room for being in nature? And in our pursuit of individual success, have we become so disconnected from each other that we’ve forgotten that we’re all in ‘this’ together?
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle, coined the phrase ‘nature deficit disorder’, which he argues negatively affects “health, spiritual well-being, and many other areas, including [people’s] ability to feel ultimately alive.” (See “The Nature-Deficit Disorder and How It Is Impacting Our Natural World.”) He lists loss of open space, increasingly busy schedules, an emphasis on team sports over free play and exploration, competition from electronic media, and a “culture of fear,” as causes.
Much of the political debate and media reporting reflects this deficit and disconnect with its language of division. Views are increasingly polarised and many feel unheard and disempowered. We are also increasingly curating our social media feeds to reinforce our own views and exclude the voices of those we don’t agree with. This segregated way of interpreting the world encourages a culture of being ‘right’ at the expense of understanding. I think this quote sums it up beautifully. “The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.” (Anon)
Surely we haven’t lost our curiosity for discovering anything new and interesting that we hadn’t thought of before. Listening to understand requires genuine curiosity about the ‘other’ and their ‘why’, without judgment. If we are to have any chance at all of coming up with solutions to the complex issues we face, we need to fix this communication problem and find a more nuanced and mature way of relating to each other. Words matter and they have the power to change things.
Now more than ever, we also need to look to nature and it’s power to heal our divisions. To learn how to reconnect with each other and our communities in a new way. Connecting with nature is a universal grounding force that reminds us that we are all part of the universe, regardless of politics or religion. We are nature after all and for us to truly thrive, we need to remember that, reconnect and be willing to listen and learn from nature’s ancient wisdoms.
In spite of the global disaster zone some would like us to believe we’re in, I’m with Gertrude Stein ” I feel that hope is a kind of defiance, you know. ‘Fuck you, I’m going to have hope.'” I have hope that by reconnecting with nature we can move from the world of ‘me’ and into a new age of ‘we’. Because there’s nothing funny about peace, love and understanding.