Earlier this summer, one of my favorite bloggers, Tiberge from Galliawatch, made a comment at one of our posts that has stuck with me for a while now. Seeing a photo of our city, Vancouver, included with a post on our weekly meetings at the Vancouver Public Library, she mentioned that it was no wonder we were able to remain optimistic about our future, being constantly surrounded by such natural beauty....
It has made me wonder, just what effect does natural splendour have on one's optimism, on one's general faith in the future? Is it indeed the cause... or might the appreciation of this natural beauty, be the effect, of that faith?
When I first moved here, I had the world's most enviable walk home from work: over a long pedestrian-friendly bridge, then soon along the gorgeous seawall, beside a busy duckpond, past a genuine waterfall, with the city skyline framed against the mountains the whole time. Frequently these sights would be augmented by playfully curious sea lions cavorting in the harbor, majestic herons patiently scouting for fish, and pairs of Canada geese, sometimes leading a long trail of young (cute!) hatchlings behind them.
Did such beauty make me optimistic? No, not on its own. I make myself optimistic, and the gorgeous natural spectacle we live within helps to keep me that way. The effect that this spectacular scenery plays on us isn't a natural, automatic one, judging by the number of gruff and grumpy people I come across here every day.
Instead, it seems allowed to, coached to, by choice; it's learned behavior... second nature.
Isn't this how it is with faith? It is to be sparked from within, before it can be helped from without. Outside influences act as a renewal, surely, not an inauguration. How else to explain, in human affairs, the varied reactions to the same circumstances; the outside influences are the same, yet the individual responses to it can be infinite.
It never ceases to fascinate me, when I find myself walking along pathways with people who are not stopped in their tracks at the spectacle of a pair of sea lions playing in the water; who glanced at the same soaring bald eagles I could see, but quickly looked back to their feet as they continued along their way. What world do they live in, that such beauty can be given its due with the merest glance? Maybe, I've come to believe, maybe they were just acting naturally.
The natural human response, seems to be indifference to the outside world, a severing of connections to it. I believe taking the time to admire something other than ourselves, contemplating more than just ourselves, seeing ourselves constantly revealed as a part of an ever bigger whole... this, to me, is unnatural, as it is learned behavior; second nature.
It should be part of being human, to possess the ability to change; adaptability is so integral to our survival. The one change most needed, is to rise above our nature; to exist above the animals, who live trapped to remain the same.
This is why our current struggle against the forces lined against us involves such high stakes: it is a battle to redefine the human experience itself. Our side, expecting fulfillment through ongoing change, being assaulted by their side, desperate to eliminate the need for change.
This week's meeting, as always, renewed our faith in eventual victory and rekindled our belief in our civilization being a prize worth fighting for. The wonders of our western civilization surround us all daily, yet how many take the time to see it? It's a more subtly hidden beauty, because it's not natural; it's second nature.