Big World, Small People

I just wanted to talk about nature for a little while. How awesome it is, how restorative it is, how insightful it is, and how weird it is that we call it “nature”.

Sitting on a large rock above Fallen Leaf Lake, it astounded me how small we are in retrospect to the rest of the world. We tend to think of ourselves as our own makers, our own front-seat drivers, and often evaluate the rest of the world and its properties, issues, and opportunities as building blocks for our own individual narratives. But when you are walking through the dense foliage of the woods, with a landscape in front of you that seems to swallow everything it encounters, the story can be seen in a different light. While our narratives may be constructed as though they are our own, they are inevitably a fraction of what is being told throughout the entire world. We are constantly being influenced by the narratives of our neighbors and exist in a flux of interconnected emotions, behaviors, and beliefs. Just as our past influences our present, which influences our future, the people we love and the people we barely know play significant roles in our lives. And to go even further, past, present, and future are simply human constructs for organizing time. There is no moment in which we are not ourselves. We are us at age 5 (influenced by __ ), us at this moment (influenced by __ ), and us at age 70 (influenced by __ ).

If all of that seems too confusing, let’s just focus on the nature part of these thoughts. Engaging with the natural world reminds us of how small we truly are, how large everything else truly is, and how our pursuits and endeavors should coexist with the fact that we cannot and do not influence the world around us or achieve our goals through solo efforts. Alleviate a nation from poverty? Look at how big the world is, how large a nation is, and think of the millions of causes that might exist behind the issue of poverty itself. There is no arguing that solving a humanitarian issue by an individual effort is downright implausible. We can, however, utilize our abilities to significantly gain progress towards such a goal. By engaging with the world around us and fulfilling the capabilities we possess as individuals we may play a significant part of a larger narrative.

The fact that we are small can be both frightening and relieving. It tells us that we are not the lead actors in the motion pictures we create in our heads, while reassuring us that we will never need to be the lead actors who seem both surreal and unreachable. For me it is also inspiring and heartwarming, to think that we each play roles in various stories of larger narratives and have many opportunities to influence the world around us through the ways in which we fulfill these roles.

And to drop the mic I would like to point out how interesting it is (to me at least) that we always separate nature from ourselves. The common phrases “go into nature”, “find yourself in nature”, and “I love nature” all conceptualize nature as something we enter, something we protect, or something distinguishable from other things that exist in the world. But I mean, really, the entire world is nature. We are not robots after all. And even robots are made from materials derived from the natural world, because everything is. So the next time either of us decides to go into nature, let’s take a minute to remind ourselves that we’re actually a part of it.

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Moments made of people and places, brilliant and ordinary. ↹ Planet Earth, Milky Way

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