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Posts Tagged ‘nature’

The Care of Nature

Muir

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

John Muir, 1890

I have just returned from a walk through a small part of Muir Woods. I was captivated by the immense beauty and wonder of the Woods. The silence there penetrated deeply into my soul. I left those Woods transformed. Driving up the winding road, I reflected on the precariousness of Nature’s beauty for this valley and forest were threatened by the building of a dam. The care of just a few, including Theodore Roosevelt, saved the forest from ultimate submersion. Psychologically, this act of submersion is repression of a thing feared. I was reminded of Freud’s view of our relationship to nature, summarized in these words, “The principle task of civilization, its actual raison d’etre, is to defend us against nature.” For Freud civilization was under constant assault from nature and it was our task to conquer or, at least, subdue nature, lest it overwhelm us. The feeling that nature must be subdued is actually quite old and represents an innate fear of the natural world.

Of course, Jung viewed our relationship with Nature in a completely different way for he saw a direct connection between psyche’s archetypes and Nature, he succinctly reflected that, “…the archetypes are as it were hidden foundations of the conscious mind, or, to use another comparison, the roots which the psyche has sunk not only in the earth in the narrower sense but in the world in general, …[archetypes are that portion of the psyche] through which the psyche is attached to nature.” So, to the extent we explore archetypes we approach Nature and, of course, the opposite is equally true to the extent we explore Nature we approach the archetypes of psyche, which is the sentiment exactly expressed in the words of John Muir.

I find it difficult to fathom people who choose to submerse the beauty of a forest with a dam, or to cut down a forest for a housing development or a shopping mall. Are these destructive acts toward Nature a reflection of Freud’s fear of the natural world? Are we so unconscious of our innate archetypal rootedness to Nature? What do we truly value?

Leaving Muir Woods, I was thankful for those few special people, so long ago, whose care afforded me a glimpse of the Universe while walking through the forest.

 

 

 

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Tree

“Sometimes a tree tells you more than can be read in a book”

C.G. Jung (Letters I, p. 479)

“So it comes about that if anyone spends almost the whole day in reading … he gradually loses the capacity for thinking; just as the man who always rides, at last forgets how to walk.”

Schopenhauer (On Books and Reading)

A strange thing can happen when you are writing about a subject, especially if you are inclined to thinking a lot about a subject. Mea Culpa! In the process of researching a subject, you may find yourself moving further away from the heart of the matter. I have experienced this in my writings on our relationship with Nature. I choose an idea of interest and feel compelled to research it first. I carry out this research so that I am ‘well prepared’ to write on the subject. As a scientist I was trained to thoroughly research a subject before beginning my work. But there are inherent problems with this approach if pursued too far. The research may become an all-consuming endeavor. It becomes so fascinating to read other’s words that we forget what we want to say about the topic. Unfortunately, the more time we spend reading other works, the less time we have to write down our thoughts.

The field of phenomenology teaches us to go “back to the things themselves!” To go out into the forest, rather than read about trees is essential to the process. Clearly there is a role for reading and research on any subject. The peril arises when we dwell too much on the research. There is also the peril that we may use our research to avoid our writing. Mea Culpa, once again! As Schopenhauer writes,

“… to take up a book for the purpose of scaring away ones own original thoughts is a sin against the Holy Spirit. It is like running away from Nature to look at a museum of dried plants or gaze at a landscape in a copperplate.”

Schopenhauer (On Thinking for Oneself)

So, this year I am determined to spend more time listening to the trees.

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Constellation

 

Reflected lights, presencing before me,
gathering me to their world.
Small constellations,
some near, some far.
Drawing me into their pattern,
suspending me in their reflection.
With each glimpse a door opens.
Leaf and Light,
worlding me into their world.

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The Eternal Return

Hello,

Just a note to say that I will be returning to more regular posts after a few months hiatus. Coming up… how philosophy informs psychology…

Regards,

Jeff

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