I think nature is an extraordinarily important part of life. I don't know if we are sensitive to the beauty of nature. When the rain is coming, the dragonflies congregate lowly in the air. When the wind breezes through a giant lake, and one can hold that entire movement of water in one glance. Or if we are aware of the stray dog, the pain it has been through, the marks that were left on its body. Or if we look at a little bug, the way it desperately holds onto the surface when the wind threatens to blow it away. Nature, if we observe it quietly, with a sense of leisure and inner space, is imbued with color and vitality. Its beauty is quite indescribable, nameless, but we have named it endlessly, through biology and botany and so on.
Although it has tremendous beauty, we destroy nature. We pollute everything. I think when one becomes aware and acutely sensitive to how much destruction we cause, it is a great shock to the brain. The scale of killing, cutting, digging, plundering is unimaginable. Yet we are all responsible for this. Our way of life, which has become so immersed in pleasure, the pleasure of eating, watching, having, takes a huge strain on nature. To sustain our living, which includes fashionable clothes, cars, concrete houses, countless digital devices, we must ceaselessly take minerals, metals, wood, plants, and animals from nature. We might not be aware of this process because we are not the ones killing the seals, rabbits, cutting down ancient trees, digging caves into the earth. But we are utterly responsible for all this plunder. So it seems to me, if we do not radically alter our way of living, we stand only to bring our own destruction.
The soil is polluted through years of farming with poisonous chemicals and pesticides, and the food that grow from the soil naturally bring such poison with it. We have polluted the water through the processing of many artificial and poisonous materials, and this is the water we will drink from. The air is polluted from factories and cars, the toxic smokes of burning toxic materials, and we breathe this air. This is a tremendous crisis, but we seem to not pay much attention to it. The world is eternally driven to go somewhere, and life is put at the periphery. We wear masks, filter water in the city, or simply neglect the poison in our food, so we can keep pursuing. It may be a better school, another lover, a stable income, some grand ambition. But when all this pursuit is important, what we do to nature, which is really what we do to ourselves, is no longer important.
Why do we hurt nature? I think it is fairly simple. Nature is not important to us. Our greed, ambition, conflict, dreams are important to us. Nature is merely a toy, something to take a picture with and post online for others to see. We do not take nature seriously. We do not behold the tree with respect, or treat the tiny bug whose sole instinct is to survive with any thoughtfulness. We are mindless in our destruction. We take nature for granted. We can pick flowers and mow down entire rain forests if we wish. We keep expanding our cities, because theater, art, cinema, culture, and everything thought has created have become so important to us. We want to expand to the moon and Mars, send ships to the outer rims of the solar system, yet we rarely see any stars, or let their immense beauty take our breath away for just a moment. Thought has not created nature. Thought has not created the tree, the blade of grass, the humming bird, the sunflowers and the austere mountains. Thought has not created the earth, the distant stars, yet what thought has made, which not only includes our common material possessions, but also knowledge, ideas, theories, have become the center from which we live.
When thought is the center, when our thinking is the most important, anything other than thought becomes merely a tool, a peripheral sight, a passing moment. It is thought that destroys nature. Thought has created the factories. Thought has justified poisoning the soil or killing the seals. Thought has directed us to kill animals for food, pleasure, and fashion. Thought has expanded our cities. Thought has made our mind and heart numb, insensitive to beauty and suffering. Thought has invented the many pleasures we have today. Thought has put together the churches and mosques, the holy places, the daily rituals, the culture and tradition, nationalism and whatever ideology. Thought has done all this. Our life is almost completely occupied by thought. And thought is necessary for living, but must thought be the center from which we live? Must thought occupy every little thing on earth?
When one is really sensitive to nature, to its subtle movements, its immense quietude, its unnameable beauty, will one destroy nature? Will we hurt a dog who is crying out of fear? Will we cut down a tree when we see its timeless dignity, rooted and upright? Are we sensitive at all? Or are we so numbed by pursuit, by our drive and ambition, that the only thing we ever notice is what we desire? Our vision is so rarely expansive, inclusive, and our listening is so selective and focused. We don't listen to the poor man begging for food. We don't listen to the noise of traffic, to the single car driving by. We don't listen to a child speaking its mind. We don't listen to the rain, but we listen to an artificial recording of the rain when we cannot sleep. Aren't we aware of what our relationship to nature has become? How ironic and absurd it has become? We only exploit nature. We do not hold nature with care, affection, and attention.
When we exploit nature as such, then nature rejects us. When we drives out the animals to build our own cities, then animosity is inevitable. We do not exist in harmony with nature, then disorder is what awaits us. The issue of nature is a question of life and death, but are we aware of its urgency? And when we are aware, are we willing to change our way of living? Not to say the government must do something, or someone else must do it first. Are we willing to live a righteous life? And to live this way, unfortunately in our society, is to be quite alone. It means to not exploit, plunder, to be careful and sensitive, to be not so quick, but have patience and understanding. To live in harmony with nature means to have space, not only physical space, but also space in the mind, so the mind is not so occupied by worries, sorrows, business. Only in this spaciousness, or if we can call this emptiness, can there be sensitivity to beauty, can a sense of vitality comes into our life.
After all, beauty is effortless. That which requires effort is only the beginning of conflict. Only in the total absence of conflict can beauty be. Beauty does not strive for attention. It is silent, yet in this silence it is vital, constantly regenerating itself. So beauty is always new, fresh. When the mind can be so empty of the past, the known, this effortless beauty comes without invitation. Such a mind then is tremendously sensitive, and it might not be able to hold the immense beauty of nature and cry. Such crying is not of sorrow, not of loss, but a sense of utter speechlessness before that which is creation itself. Such silence is real humility.