“I can’t be a pessimist, because I’m alive. To be a pessimist means that you have agreed that human life is an academic matter, so I'm forced to be an optimist. I am forced to believe that we can survive whatever we must survive." – James Baldwin
How can you prove to yourself that life isn’t academic? How can the optimism and sacredness of being once again infuse your bones? If life is academic, that means it’s a serious matter that requires solving. But what if, as Eckhart Tolle writes:
“Life isn't as serious as the mind makes it out to be”
One way to get a feel for this, is to find yourself in nature.
Henry David Thoreau famously wrote that:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived”
What does it mean to be deliberate? Practically, it means that you eat when hungry, drink when thirsty, and pass the days and nights in honest work. You reconnect to the pace and rhythm of nature - to the immediacy of abiding in an environment that isn’t tailored to your comfort.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished” - Lao Tzu
Your ancient rhythm is found among trees and dirt, it is found at sunrise and sunset. To abide in these places, where you are among the songs of birds and wind, is to return to a scared and simple resonance.
“By manifesting the sacred, any object becomes something else, yet it continues to remain itself, for it continues to participate in its surrounding cosmic milieu…all nature is capable of revealing itself as cosmic sacrality” - Mircea Eliade
Life becomes optimistic once again, simply by virtue of being alive. The sacredness of the natural world is made salient by situating oneself in it. Overlooking lakes and grassy hills, the famous Romantic poet William Wordsworth wrote that:
“And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused”
In the moment of that sense sublime, all notions of solving, scheming, and deliberating vanish. Our contrived efforts towards perfection, truth, and righteousness dissolve. And this is the key, for now that we’ve healed in nature, now that fullness is in our marrows, we have space for the greatest task of all.
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good” -John Steinbeck
It is as it is.
P.S. I’m back from a restorative month that involved lots of hiking and camping. Moving forward, this newsletter will be sent out once every two weeks. I’m grateful to all of those who are subscribed and for your continued support - I hope you all find value and joy from these pieces :)