Nature Doesn’t Care
How wilderness can make you a better human being
In our “look at me” culture, manifested in fashion trends and the accrual of material “things,” where we measure our worth in likes and followers, and unknowingly wither under the ache for attention, nature offers us the greatest medicine…indifference. This steadfast indifference provides us with two things that I believe are crucial to being a better human being.
In the human world we all wear masks.
We seek to blend in by whatever means necessary, scanning the masses for marks of popularity and symbols of success. Then, after burying what might embarrass us, we do our best to emulate what we see in others, crusaders on our quest for acceptance.
This acceptance from our peers may feel like a biological necessity, especially when we’re young, but acceptance and happiness are not synonymous. It’s the approval of ourselves and embracing of all that we are that will ultimately bring the greatest fulfillment.
But how do we cultivate self-approval?
As the world spins off in ever more technological and digital ways, these symbols of success and popularity have become increasingly separated from the natural world, or at least on the surface it would seem that way. This leaves many of us to believe that our lives are somehow detached from the outdoors, our survival and success requiring no input from the wild.
As a kid I was lucky enough to have a counterweight to all I was witnessing on TV and in school. Growing up playing in the woods, often with friends, but equally by myself, I had access to a special kind of therapy.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but those wandering hours and silent seconds were crucial to my development and to the person I would become. The mental space the woods provided was vital for me to learn how to navigate the man-made madness gnawing at its edges.
With no one to impress there was no need to put on a show, to act a certain way, or camouflage who I really was. In this absence of judgement I was free to express and understand myself better than I ever could have in the presence of others.
“Come as you are.”
That should be the motto of nature. Trees, rocks, snakes, clouds, they could all care less what you’re wearing or what you look like, unphased by what you’ve accomplished or how you may have failed.
They’re simply there, imparting no judgement, instilling no hierarchy.
Flies will buzz around your head, the popes, and a raccoons all the same.
Nature is the great equalizer, the ego killer, and along with a litany of other benefits derived from it, this tacit ambivalence is just as important. Though I’m sure there are many others to point out, these two qualities stand out to me most:
- Perspective — nature’s ambivalence to our presence reminds us that we are not the center of anything. That in a world billions, on this massive planet, we are but a speck on the surface, an indistinguishable blip on the radar, surrounded by billions of other individual blips. To some that may sound depressing, but there is serious benefit to be found in acknowledging this simple truth. In light of this, your problems are not as pressing as they may feel in the moment.
- Clarity — with no one to impress upon or influence, the inner voice becomes much clearer in the wilderness. Your need to put on a mask and blend in with the crowd disappears, leaving only you alone on an empty stage. And when there is no one else to perform for, your inner thoughts make their way into the spotlight.
“But those who haven’t the strength or youth to go into it and live can simply sit and look. They can look two hundred miles, clear into Colorado: and looking down over the cliffs and canyons of the San Rafael Swell and the Robbers’ Roost they can also look as deeply into themselves as anywhere I know.”
— Wallace Stegner
We need to prioritize the protection of wild places for so many reasons, but let’s just add this one more in for good measure.
Starting with a strong foundation of self is the most powerful lesson we can learn as humans.
Through greater self-awareness we’re able to more aptly navigate the world, particularly the human one, with its profusion of gimmicks, allures, and contradictions. A greater sense of calm and ease slips into your life when you make nature a part of your routine as senses of urgency don’t tend to hold up in the face of geological time.
For many of us, separating ourselves from city life and urgent work responsibilities is not an option, and that’s okay. But it’s those times when we’re stuck in our heads, wrapped up in the importance of our tasks, that we need the wild reprieve most.
“We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.”
— Wallace Stegner
Thank you so much for tagging along with me as I explore this concept. I encourage everyone to find their local parks and nature retreats and speak up for them. Care for them and they’ll care for you.
Feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts or experiences regarding this.