Disconnection from the natural world is something I think is inevitable when one lives in a city—or even when one lives in a city not. I’ve been reading a book called “The Te of Piglet” which is the 2nd book by Benjamin Hoff, his first being “The Tao of Pooh”. One part of the book in particular struck me as going along with a lot of different aspects of my thoughts and life, currently.
“In other words, modern man’s difficulties, dangerous beliefs, and feelings of loneliness, spiritual emptiness, and personal weakness are caused by his illusions about, and separation from, the natural world. Well, the Taoists told us this sort of mess would happen, and they told us what we could do about it.”
To put it in easy terms, the solution to being separated from nature is reality appreciation. One of the best examples of this is with the non-official Taoist writer Henry David Thoreau:
“…shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality is fabulous. If men would steadily observe realities only, and not allow themselves to be deluded, life, to compare it with such things as we know, would be like a fairy tale and the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments…children who play life, discern its true law and relations more clearly than men, who fail to live it worthily, but who think that they are wiser by experience, that is, by failure…”
I have always had a bit of a problem connecting with reality. I am never too sure of how to explain it in terms that are rational, but I have several writings from when I’ve felt that disconnectedness the most that, well, don’t exactly make the most sense—but in a way make all the sense in the world. I don’t really know what triggers this intense feeling of needing to get away, to connect somehow with what is happening—what I’m experiencing or what others are experiencing. I think that escaping is always my answer to my issues and for a while I thought that was not a good way to deal, but as I’ve seen, it is one of the only ways I can re-connect myself with something that is real, something that is tangible. I might just need to take a walk or a hike or ride my bike or drive across town—sometimes I might need to go further from home, someplace new, maybe I need to take a journey to prove to myself that I can do it—that I’m in control of me—of my actions and my thoughts—proving something to yourself is sometimes the most difficult thing in the world. Especially when you have to prove something like reality or something like self-determination.
Now, I’m not for sure if I can follow myself here, but I just watched the film “Lord of the Flies” from 1962, (Criterion Collection—black and white) an amazing tribute to not only film but also to the human condition, the separation of man from nature and then what happens to man when he is returned to nature, by chance, not by choice. Granted that all of the characters in the story are boys, I don’t think that is a great excuse—just a means to show that even the innocent can prove to be real in some form. If you haven’t read the story, pick up the book first, it is an easy read, but one that has great depth into man, the savage and man the humanitarian. A large group of boys get stranded on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific and have to use their own instincts to take care of themselves. As the story starts the boys are intent on being true to their English nature, leaving their ties and shirts on until they just can’t take it any more. Slowly their bodies become battered, their clothes become ragged, their nature becomes more and more animalistic, and their minds tend to desert them as slowly they become their “true” selves. One of the characters referred to as Piggy says at one point “I bet it’s gone past tea time” and we are reminded that they are indeed products of their society, products of their schooling, and how ingrained that is, in not only them, but also in us. Drop us onto a deserted island and I’m sure that our true actions and thoughts would soon start to develop, albeit slowly. Isolation is not what this is about, don’t start thinking “Castaway” the Tom Hanks film from a few years back, this is about group dynamics, power, faith and sacrifice. Sacrifices are constantly made by a couple of the characters in particular—if you get the chance to watch the film, watch the progression of two specific characters, Simon and Ralph—both of which show the greatest consistency in their actions—but slowly even they succumb to the wildness that is their home.
I’m not for sure if I have the understanding of myself enough to understand how all this is coming together for me now—how conversations seem to come at just the right time—how thoughts and actions and conversations can all pull themselves together for one sort of thought or idea. All I know is that maybe sometimes what we all think is so “natural” is completely not—maybe we all need to be dropped onto a deserted island, with no idea of when our rescue will arrive just to see ourselves as maybe we should be seen. I hate using a computer, I hate using cell phones and I hate seeing people go so completely crazy over money. Buildings are not really that great, highways cause more stress than the jobs people use them to get to. It is almost too much—just too much to take—and that is where the struggle with reality seems to begin.
So, when thinking about if we are products of our society I lean towards yes—yes we should be more connected with our surroundings that are not concrete and steel—we should attempt to make a connection with ourselves, with our friends—to have true relationships with not only each other but with nature—I don’t like living in the city but I like living near it. I do like having a large park close at hand though, and if you ride deep enough into it you might not realize that you’re in a city, you might just realize that the city is in the park.