The Natural World

Yesterday, an intense intrigue into the natural world was surfaced to the domain of my attention from unknown disparate recesses inside of me. It was the catalyst of a process that lead to the current state of my browser’s history and opened tabs— over 40; I thought I closed most of them just earlier today.

As I try to mentally describe to myself what exactly that process was, I figure it might be helpful to first look at the catalyst. I watched a nature documentary, this action being galvanized by a recent revelation from a book. There was an adage that simply stated that in order to gain more interest in a subject, learn more about it. I had felt this subtle force at play a couple times in my past. 

Up until recently, I had a cognitive bias called plant blindness (an informal term). Plant blindness is the tendency for humans to discount or deemphasize the importance or beauty of plant life. I had long had a dim but persistent question in my head: why is it so easy to forget that plant life is indeed life? But I tossed this question’s fruit until I discovered there’s a term for it, which feels like deliverance from unsettling doubts about one’s more idiosyncratic or irreverent thoughts. 

My more naive past self realized that after reading a book not about plants but still containing interesting information on them, my problem-solving processes were now looping greenery into the dance. A head somewhere turned toward them and nodded. And it was all mildly euphoric as I had harbored some existential guilt for not appreciating them enough. 

I wrongly attributed the count of my browser tabs wholly to my newfound terrestrial propensities. Rather it’s my tendency for obsession, both in breadth and depth. I’m first and foremost a zealot for the sheer abundance and diversity of things that exist. But how does one aim in such noise? And for what purpose? 

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Though frequently espoused, I believe we don’t give enough weight to the efficaciousness of that statement. In pure confusion and weightlessness, to know anything is to grab a rope from something unseen. As you explore its length, you may wonder, are you pulling its end toward you or yourself toward it? If the rope is attached to a body with a similar mass as yours, you would have no way to know the difference. 

Well we— or more politely Einstein— discovered there actually is no difference. As you learn more, you pull these “truths” closer to you. But that says nothing of their groundedness, stability, or accuracy. Their structures map to reality insofar as our own senses can detect and sensibly interpret all— something we can demonstratively prove is untrue both inside our own skin and in the realm of supercomputing. 

But what of truth? As much as we struggle to exalt it, our body doesn’t seem to pay it much mind. Survival and stability is key. Knowledge allows us to build foundations from which to build more foundations ad infinitum. A truth is a brick that can be used to help buttress humanity’s fortress against the unceasing and often violent currents of change. It’s both a revelation and a revolution. It’s a tool found in the currents themselves then weaponized against them. There’s no prerequisite that this weapon must somehow accurately describe the currents, just that they help control them. 

Well what then of the person who wishes to cut through the fabric of our institutions and glimpse the ultimate truth, reality. The thing is, even if you convincingly promise to accept the undefinable upon being bathed in it, that doesn’t mean your body will. You are forever on the outside of a walled garden called the subconscious that’s calling more shots than you likely even realize. You can sometimes get spies inside and deduce and infer from information hastily gathered all day, but to take control of it? Maybe moving a mountain would be more promising. 

So what then? What do we do? Well, for starters, we can tap our foot to the rhythm of our beautiful bodies. Finely tuned over billions of years, the human body is remarkable. As with the plants, I believe we all have a kind of human blindness. It matters not to me if you refuse to revere your own body, I still will. It’s such a bountiful and inexhaustible thread that I hesitate to even tug at it here. In a land of murderous eternal pandemonium, we ought to cling onto ourselves for dear life.