Resource: Subjectifying the Universe: Ursula K. Le Guin on Science and Poetry as Complementary Modes of Comprehending and Tending to the Natural World
No one who is incapable of describing scientific phenomena in a poetic way is worthy to be called a poet.
Science describes the world from the outside. Poetry illuminates it from within. Science objectivizes. Poetry subjectivizes. Both are needed.
One way to increase our sense of connection to nature is by personalizing it, by speaking and thinking of it as our kinfolk.
When we show reverence to nature, we experience it in a more personal way.
This theme of this article reminds me of George Washington Carver’s notion that “When you love something deeply enough, it will tell you its secrets.”
“What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?”
“there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity.” -Rachel Carson
“To use the world well, to be able to stop wasting it and our time in it, we need to relearn our being in it. Skill in living, awareness of belonging to the world, delight in being part of the world, always tends to involve knowing our kinship as animals with animals. Darwin first gave that knowledge a scientific basis. And now, both poets and scientists are extending the rational aspect of our sense of relationship to creatures without nervous systems and to non-living beings — our fellowship as creatures with other creatures, things with other things.”
“Descartes and the behaviorists willfully saw dogs as machines, without feeling. Is seeing plants as without feeling a similar arrogance? One way to stop seeing trees, or rivers, or hills, only as “natural resources,” is to class them as fellow beings — kinfolk.”
“I guess I’m trying to subjectify the universe, because look where objectifying it has gotten us. To subjectify is not necessarily to co-opt, colonize, exploit. Rather it may involve a great reach outward of the mind and imagination.”
“Poetry is the human language that can try to say what a tree or a rock or a river is, that is, to speak humanly for it, in both senses of the word “for.” A poem can do so by relating the quality of an individual human relationship to a thing, a rock or river or tree, or simply by describing the thing as truthfully as possible.”
“Science describes accurately from outside, poetry describes accurately from inside. Science explicates, poetry implicates. Both celebrate what they describe. We need the languages of both science and poetry to save us from merely stockpiling endless “information” that fails to inform our ignorance or our irresponsibility.”
“So we admit stones to our holy communion; so the stones may admit us to theirs.”
Resource: Thoreau on Nature as Prayer
Thoreau experienced nature in the same prayerful and reverential manner as some experience a church service.
Being present in nature not only facilitates meditation, but it is a kind of meditation unto itself.
Even if you live primarily in the city, make room for time away from the fray and into the forest.
“When we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy.” – Hermann Hesse
“Thoreau reverenced trees as living incantations, wordless prayers, benedictions for the art of being. In their company, he found a counterpoint to the falsehoods of society. Fifteen years after his mentor Emerson lamented in his own journal that “in cities… one seems to lose all substance, & become surface in a world of surfaces,”
“In the street and in society I am almost invariably cheap and dissipated, my life is unspeakably mean. No amount of gold or respectability would in the least redeem it — dining with the Governor or a member of Congress!! But alone in distant woods or fields, in unpretending sprout lands or pastures tracked by rabbits, even on a black and, to most, cheerless day, like this, when a villager would be thinking of his inn, I come to myself, I once more feel myself grandly related, and that the cold and solitude are friends of mine. I suppose that this value, in my case, is equivalent to what others get by churchgoing and prayer. I come to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home… It is as if I always met in those places some grand, serene, immortal, infinitely encouraging, though invisible, companion, and walked with him.”
““After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains? Nature remains; to bring out from their torpid recesses, the affinities of a man or woman with the open air, the trees, fields, the changes of seasons — the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.”
Resource: What is and what might be
The possibilities of the future don’t have to be predicated on the past. Past success is no indicator of future success, but the same is true of past frustration, and past failure. Stay open. Ask questions before assuming things have to be what they’ve always been.
“They have much less in common than you might expect. The key step in creating a better future is insisting that it not be based on the assumptions, grievances and dead ends of the past. The future won’t be perfect. We won’t be perfect. But we can be kind. We can listen. We can give opportunity the benefit of the doubt. The future won’t always work. We won’t always succeed. But we can be alert and seek out the possible instead of the predicted. The future won’t always be fair. But we can try. We can care. We can choose to connect. It can be better if we let it.”