January seemed a very dark month for me. Not that I remained in a perpetual state of unseeing, but that the headlines and debates about the declining state of nature, and how we respond, became critically bleak. I became depressed, which is not so unusual these days for concerned citizens of the Earth.
Passion for nature leads me to read much on the subject, you see. Not only books, journals and blogs, but also tweets and Facebook postings, and other individual or institutional contributions from a variety of sources.These days, there’s a huge array of information and opinion available online and in print. Often, it’s tricky to assimilate or digest. But it’s part of my normal day. There’s a multiplicity of styles, academic or otherwise. Key words leap out from headlines with symbolic meaning, photos which catch the eye. I begin to read but if I judge the prose is weak, ill-considered or downright spurious, I’ll quickly discard after the first paragraph. More often than not, I’ll read to the end. More rarely, I’ll bookmark, reference and notate.
Much of what I read on the environment is negative. This is ‘calamity’, that is ‘catastrophe.’ This and that take their toll; corrosion of the soul. And I’m mindful when passing them on, believe me. There’s an obvious commercial dominance and shallow values appear immoveable. Even conservators are caving in to neoliberalism, Chomsky’s ’cool observers’ await, eyes up for the main chance, as nature is exposed to new markets.
Personally, there’s little emotional and zero financial reward for either my reading or challenging the status quo. Neither is it easy prodding at social norms like economic growth, consumerism and commodification. Curt responses or being ignored; my daily bread on social media.
Yet amid a barrage of gloom, I find gleaming, shining gems of hope. I really do. Ideas, actions, results. This is my intellectual and spiritual reward. Self-willed land, agroecology, rewilding, ecoliteracy, compassionate economies, grassroots groups, seed libraries, community kitchens, biodiversity trains…ideas and concepts, turns of phrase returning us to our communal roots; nature. I read about the small things, the local rally cries and stories with purposeful endings. I read about new and renewed environmental ethics, bringing clarity and hope to our wonderful Planet Earth.
If I deem worth sharing, I do, in some kind of eclectic editorial process. It’s easy enough on social media. In those gems, you’ll find connection, inclusivity, love and reciprocity. And there are brave ambitions for holism, community, justice and peace. They are there!
Yet, in the shadows of January darkness, I found myself questioning, ‘Why am I bothering?’ No-one reads, no-one listens. This is pain, Schopenhauer’s suffering. I’m far too small to change the world; my voice is insignificant. I am merely a whisper. The weight of the problem pressed heavily on my psyche.
Thankfully, I have a small sphere of loved ones and friends with whom I am able to speak freely and to understand their views too is a privilege. They tell me I do worthwhile things. I owe them a thank you. Thank you also to the Red Fox Country, who suggested there is less hurt when we detach ourselves from outcomes, because herein lies just a little less pain. And thanks to Hedgie Jim for his timely empathy over Twitter. I hope he feels brighter too now. Small kindnesses with expansive benefits, believe me.
Change by force, coercion, humiliation? The ruinous ego in action!
Change by doing and demonstrating? Of course, gentle, and in many ways.
But there’s altogether a more subtle intent, one worth quietly pursuing. There are mental hollows to be carved out, inviting more thought to pour in from others. In achieving this, as a philosopher, I somehow feel replete.
Meanwhile, and importantly, I’ll remember to simply enjoy my own firm connection with nature, as Kahlil Gibran once wrote,
‘And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.’
addo: When did I last read an entire book, cover to cover? Thankfully, Masters study is leading me to read again with singular intensity, truly engaging with authors in their thoughts through words. Work inspiring me at present? ‘Remembering Heraclitus’ by Richard Geldard. Read it and perceive ‘Being in Fullness’. There will be light.