The Haw River Paddler
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then can one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of Nature.” Anne Frank
“ME bubble separates us from Nature, other people — article appeared in the February 2017 edition of the Chatham County Line newspaper.
I have this problem. Actually, I think we all have this problem. My problem is that I don’t see the world like everyone-else does; and therefore, don’t always see the effects of my actions on others. If I did, perhaps I could have more compassion and a better understanding of why we treat each other like we do. You see, if I could understand, then maybe I could do something to make the world better than I perceive it to be. Perhaps I could make changes that would help me be a better person than I perceive myself to be.
To make fundamental changes in who we are and how we relate to the rest of the world, we need to understand the major influences in our lives. We are all creatures of our upbringing. I grew up with a Catholic mother and a Jewish father. Neither was particularly religious but they tried to live by religious teachings. For me, I was very confused. Which God was right? Was it the one to whom my mother prayed or the one to whom my father prayed? Was I to choose one belief system over the other, and in my way of thinking, choose one parent over the other? I will never forget the day my father said to me, “Joseph, I don’t understand why so many people dislike Jews. Jesus was a Jew, and by the way we treat each other in our American Christian society, we have been nailing him to the cross every day for over 2,000 years”. If my father were alive today, I wonder what he would say.
Right or wrong several teachings stood out to me. First, there was fear. If you are not a good boy, you will go to hell and burn for eternity. Then, there was guilt. If you disobey those in authority, even if they are wrong, you are a bad person. Finally, there was the message from many religious teachers, “do as I say not as I do”. Fortunately, there was one very important message that seemed to resonate with me, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. As I grew older, I finally decided it was more important to be spiritual than religious, to treat others as you hoped they would treat you.
I have come to believe that the way we treat Nature is just an extension of how we treat each other. Actually, you could say that the way we treat each other shows up in how we treat Nature. Seems we live in a bubble called “ME”. In that bubble we do what is easiest and most gratifying without thought to what our effect might be on others or on Nature. The other day, a gentleman who oversees a collection center in rural Chatham County told me that it will no longer be necessary to separate paper, plastic and glass. It will all be mixed together in order to make it easier for us to recycle in the hope that more people will recycle. We then talked about how so many people in the world would love most of what we throw away, and yet, isn’t it a shame that we have to make it easy for people to recycle otherwise they won’t do it. We throw away what we did not need in the first place, and have to have an effortless system to help us be mindless in the process.
We are not bad people. It is just that we go through our day-to-day life being mindless. We only see things through our lens and don’t make the effort to see how others are viewing what we believe to be so obvious. How could that person vote that way? Why does that person see me as wrong or even worse, see me as evil and trying to hurt them? We are not bad people. We just don’t understand because we live in the ME bubble. The world we see is confined by our ME bubble, and we believe that is reality. I hate to say this, but we are all insane because we don’t recognize what is essential to human existence which is air, water, shelter, food and to love and be loved. We treat each other and Nature as if they don’t matter because in the ME bubble, all that matters is me.
Want to get out of your ME bubble and be open to the needs and thoughts of others? Get out into Nature. Go for a hike or a paddle. Quiet your mind of all the things that are happening in your ME bubble and just listen to Nature. Let Nature be your guide. I think Terry Tempest Williams says it best. “To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from”.