Nature in balance

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Balance
Adam Zagajewski

I watched the arctic landscape from above
and thought of nothing, lovely nothing.
I observed white canopies of clouds, vast
expanses where no wolf tracks could be found.

I thought about you and about the emptiness
that can promise one thing only: plenitude—
and that a certain sort of snowy wasteland
bursts from a surfeit of happiness.

As we drew closer to our landing,
the vulnerable earth emerged among the clouds,
comic gardens forgotten by their owners,
pale grass plagued by winter and the wind.

I put my book down and for an instant felt
a perfect balance between waking and dreams.
But when the plane touched concrete, then
assiduously circled the airport’s labyrinth,

I once again knew nothing. The darkness
of daily wanderings resumed, the day’s sweet darkness,
the darkness of the voice that counts and measures,
remembers and forgets.

Photo (c) 2017 William Wolfe (down the street from home!)

Limit the options and dull the minds

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“It’s not easy because your heart is closed off, but yes, you must move into the future.”

Random bits – the bits that piqued my interest and kept me reading anyway – from the sort of New Age book as I finally close it up and move on to something else…

“Arrested personal growth serves industrial ‘growth’. By suppressing the nature dimension of human development (through educational systems, social values, advertising, nature-eclipsing vocations and pastimes, city and suburb design, denatured medical and psychological practices, and other means), industrial growth society engenders an immature citizenry unable to imagine a life beyond consumerism and soul-suppressing jobs.”

 

“…there are two important questions in life, and it is essential not to get them in the wrong order. The first is “Where am I going?” and the second is “Who will go with me?”

 

“They have not learned what Alan Watts called ‘the wisdom of insecurity’– that life is a hazardous adventure (which is what makes it interesting and joyous), that an artificially secure life is a dull one, and that significant security is impossible because change is unavoidable, illness and injury are common, and death inevitable.”

 

“For over one hundred years, mainstream American education has been systematically tuned to produce, on the one hand, blue-collar workers, and soldiers, and on the other, white-collar scientists, technologists, military officer, business managers, and career professionals. The idea has been to ‘keep America strong’, which means more successful than other nations in competing for Earth’s limited resources, on which all human economies are grounded. This has been accomplished in the United States and other Western societies by creating a large workforce of wage slaves and soldiers and a sizable cadre of sharp and ambitious minds capable of managing that workforce and creating technological advances for the mark of military-economic ‘progress’. Consequently, we have a bifurcated educational system successfully designed to limit the options and dull the minds and aspirations of the first group while both sharpening and narrowing the minds of the second. The education emphasis for the professional class is on thinking, but thinking in rather shallow and constricted modes. Independent, critical thinking and any kind of feeling, imagining, and sensing are minimized, marginalized, or discouraged because they are deemed irrelevant or detrimental to industrial development or personal fulfillment. Another reason these innate human capacities are suppressed in Western societies (and must be) is because they easily expose the egocentric idea of ‘progress’ for the self-destructive and world-devastating fantasy that it is.”

 

“In our society, the late teens and early twenties are often thought of as our one chance in life to sow wild oats. This way of thinking belies an unconscious co-optation of our innate wildness — our true, abiding, and sustainable vitality. Something in us is truly wild and wants to stay that way through our entire life. It is the source of our deepest creativity and freedom. When we say about youth, ‘Let them have their day, their wildness, their fun; soon enough they’ll settle down like we all do,’ we’re betraying the fact that we’ve made our human world too small for soul. We’ve abdicated a critically important part of our human nature.

Even the phrase ‘sow wild oats’ suggests that, like oats, our wildness is doomed to domestication. Egocentric society believes these human oats (and their sowers) are not meant to remain wild. Young people might briefly be allowed their ‘freedom’, but it’s rare that they are encouraged to uncover, celebrate and claim their full wildness for a lifetime.”

All quotes in blocks from Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World by Bill Plotkin, 2008.

 

Facts

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The fact that I am home on a Friday night watching Cosmos and catching up on the week’s The Daily Show and Colbert Report while thinking about the discussion of big data going beyond just big data into “fast data” (that is, real-time data) and considering nature and its weirdnesses (for example, the Swede who crashed into a moose with his car; the moose was killed. Imagine the car driver’s surprise to learn that the moose, whose body was completely slashed open when it crashed through the windshield, had… “deposited” her as-yet-unborn calf in the backseat of his car. Stranger than fiction).

Fridays – cementing my nerdiness as usual.

The Allure of Regional Pride: Värmland, Sweden

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The Värmland region of Sweden is a place that seems to fill its residents with a considerable amount of regional pride. People who don’t live in or aren’t from Värmland often echo the feeling that Värmland is the most amazing place, that it would be “like a dream” to live there, and that it embodies what many consider to be “the real Sweden”. Sort of smack in the middle of everything, Värmland is mostly rural, its largest city – the virtually unheard-of (outside Sweden) Karlstad (except for IKEA furniture named after the city) is uniquely placed at a near-equidistance from the Nordic holy trinity of Stockholm, Oslo and Gothenburg. Värmland is not known for city life, of course. It’s the landsbygd – truly rural and in many ways untouched. For those who love nature, Värmland is it.

And it seems to me (in my very few years as a Värmlander myself) that Värmlanders (current and former) bond with each other – in a similar way to how people who come from a small town and meet somewhere else, far away, do. Even though Värmland is a big place and coming from the eastern edge is not totally the same as coming from the far west on the border with Norway (life there, which is where I call home, has been affected by an influx of both Norwegians and their massive border shopping centers) people connected to Värmland do seem to consider it home forever – long after they leave to put down permanent roots elsewhere. There is a sense of pride and identification with the place that people from Värmland adopt – and transplants, like me, fiercely take on. I feel protective and proud about Värmland for some really inexplicable reason. Maybe just because living here has given me the kind of inner peace that I did not really imagine ever having. I never felt at home anywhere, but Värmland is home. As exotic and wonderful as my “native stomping grounds” – Hawaii – is, Värmland is home. I spent most of my formative years in the lovely and diverse Seattle and surrounding environs. But Värmland is home. Yes, Sweden is home, but more than that, Värmland is home. When you meet Swedes, they may tell you they came from “some small town but now live in Stockholm” or will introduce themselves using the city they currently live in. But when you meet a Värmlander, it’s almost a guarantee that s/he will self-identify as a Värmlander (if their värmlandska language does not give them away! Even those who have long left Värmland still consider themselves proud Värmlanders – you can take the Värmlander out of Värmland but not Värmland from the Värmlander). The regional identity assumes almost equal importance to the national identity, and I have not noticed this anywhere in Sweden as I have among Värmlanders.

Heading into the long Easter weekend, I drove home and felt a growing sense of relief, contentment and pride once I crossed into Värmland. Happy.