29 January 2017

77 – Enter the Nature

It’s been a good spell since last I House Newfed. I laid off the words between the Winter Solstice and Perihelion. I’ve focussed on novel-writing and law studies since then. I’ll say more about those side-activities another time. Just know that I’ll never become the next John Grisham.

I’ve been looking forward to writing essay #77 for some time. That’s the jersey number worn by my all-time favourite hockey player. What can I tell you? I’m biased: he was a 5-time Norris Trophy winner who played for my favourite hockey team.

“Every pleasure defers till its last its greatest delights.”
- Seneca

And that got me to thinking about something else I’ve been eager to get back to. And this essay’s about that.

We spend much of our time living amidst the structures, both physical and digital, that we’ve created. Humans have built a remarkable world for themselves. We’re an amazing, and exceptional, form of life.

Yet too often we get lost within that world we’ve created. Too often we fall prey to a series of Illusions brought to us by The World. I dealt with the Illusion of Affluence in #67. We’re also easy prey for its first cousin, the Illusion of Connection. That’s an Illusion we’re especially vulnerable to because it taps into an ancient trait that lies at the genetic core of our humanness: the desire to be a welcome member of a larger community.

The Illusion of Connection suggests that plugging ourselves into digital information through social media enhances, amplifies, and validates our lives. There’s some truth in this. Social media can be a great supplement to our need for social connection and interaction.

Yet a great degree of the sensation it triggers is artificial. Scrolling through digital feeds often leaves us feeling anxious, socially isolated, and emotionally disoriented. Even though we often can’t articulate it, our brains can distinguish between the Illusion of Connection and a genuine connection.

I’m sure you know the feeling. I do too. I’ve mindlessly fallen into the black hole of an Instagram feed or Internet Tangent Search plenty of times. Thankfully, I’m becoming more mindful of this. I’m learning to set the gadgets aside and plug into something deeper and more meaningful on a regular basis.

I love BobTime (that’s House Newf for weekends). And I love my Systems. They help me to squeeze every last drop out of BobTime that I can.

I also like getting up early. I’m an early bird by nature, and I enjoy dropping anchor on my day before the white noise and bright lights of The World find me. And as an early bird, one of my favourite BobTime activities is going off on a Sunrise Trot. They allow me to disconnect from The World and enter the nature.

I find something uplifting in watching a new day awaken. Starlight fades before the spreading glow of the rising sun. Trees step out from night’s shadow in a bright march of yellow, green, and gold. The scent of needle and bough as you walk through the stands clinging to the rough fringes of the shoreline. The trees sigh and sway against the salt breeze sweeping inland. The granite cliffs stand steadfast in their resistance against the erosive action of wind, water, and time. The tide rumbles and pounds relentlessly against that stubborn shore.

When I embrace the nature I know that I’m also embracing myself. In my heart, I know that I’ve come home.

“We need the tonic of wilderness . . . We need to witness our own limits transgressed.”
- Henry David Thoreau

Entering the nature is vital to being a proper human. However, that isn’t always a pleasant experience. The nature often demands something more of us. It can be very hard on us, unforgiving and relentless in its behaviour. Sometimes we must face the nature, instead.

The nature is often a challenge we must struggle against. It's not easy to tend a vegetable garden on a humid summer day while a scorching sun beats down on you. It’s not easy to shovel out the driveway on a cold winter morning while a stiff wind blows half of what you shovel back into your face. Nor is it easy to walk the dog after work when it’s pouring rain.

A lot of people believe performing these tasks under such conditions merit complaint. If you’re one of these people, here’s a tip: stop being a pussy and suck it up. The nature doesn’t give a sweet flying fuck about your feelings or thresholds for discomfort. That gardening, shovelling, or dog-walking needs to get done. Deal with the hand nature deals you.

Or as Clay’s boyfriend, The Macho Farmer, once told me, Nothing wrong with working hard out in the garden. Good for the constitution.

Entering the nature also offers powerful lessons about the very nature of life itself.

Heavy humidity, bone-chilling cold, and buckets of rain can often make outdoor tasks very unpleasant. Yet those circumstances are beyond our control. We can’t shut off intense weather because we’ve got things to do. Nature’s under no obligation to cater to our preferences. It reminds us that we don’t walk invincible through life, and that we can’t always get what we want.

Life’s the same way. Sometimes it’s just hard. Life’s under no obligation to cater to our whims. We’re obliged to make the most of what life offers us. For like the nature, life also is adept at cutting us back down to size.

Heart of a dragon, a soul burning with life.

The nature also reminds us of how important it is to put things in perspective. It’s hard to grasp the significance of something we’re in the middle of. It’s difficult to appreciate the scope of the forest while standing beneath the trees. For we can only understand where we’ve come from once we’ve paused to look back over the path we’ve trod. We can only see the forest upon looking back over it from a high place.   

Perhaps this leaves you feeling disheartened and small. Tough titties. Cry me a river and tell me how deep it is. As an epic StarTalker once suggested, perhaps you’re walking through life with an unjustifiably large ego. Perhaps you need to humble yourself by embracing a cosmic perspective. For in doing so you may find a deeper love and compassion for yourself, others, and the world we all share.

We must always remember where we came from. We grew out of structures, both cosmic and quantum in scope, before we could ever hope to conjure the amazing and complex world we now inhabit. We’re born of a Big Bang. We grow under the sun. We sleep beneath the stars. We walk across wide fields. We feel wind rush past our faces. We marvel at towers of stone. We wonder at pillars of wood and bough. We age with the seasons. And we’ll reach an end, just as the forces and monuments of nature will, before the passing throne of time.

For no matter where we look throughout the universe, we can’t help but see something of ourselves in it.

We know that, and no other form of life on this planet ever has.

Allow yourself to disconnect from The World. Remember that stars can make you better. Always strive to be a planet. And don’t ever forget to be human.

For in those moments when you’re feeling lost amid the hot air, white noise, and bullshit of The World, take this to heart: 

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What's a House Newf?

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The House Newf is from a rugged and beautiful island on the eastern edge of Canada called Newfoundland. He was first identified by a potter with a naturalist's flair, and he does in fact live in a house under the watchful eye of a cat that seems bewildered by the universe at large. That house is in Halifax, Nova Scotia and that's where the House Newf writes fiction and essays on things that add value to his life that may add some value to yours. You can contact him at bobharding80@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter @theHouseNewf, on Instagram @thehousenewf, and like him on Facebook. The House Newf is a unique specimen. Every home should have one.