Print Edition: August 21, 2012
I walked into a cobweb yesterday. It clung to me and prickled like a thousand leggy spiders were crawling everywhere. I freaked out, of course, yelping and frantically swiping at my hair.
I really do think that that’s the kind of reaction a lot of people would have. But, literally panicking? Is that normal?
I was outside a lot this summer, and I noticed that I am not comfortable with nature. I can’t sit in a field, because of the various flies and bees and bugs that could crawl and sting and creep me out. Swimming with weeds below me is awful, climbing a tree is sappy and sticky. Even laying on a beach sucks if there are ants.
Every other day there is a study on why nature improves our emotional health. It calms us down, gives us peace, and reminds us of how things are supposed to be.
When I think about my day-to-day life, I realise it’s a life lived in boxes.
I live in an apartment, one small box in a big one. I walk out of the building, follow the pavement to another box with a motor. I drive to work or school, two more boxes where I stay inside and work. I look at my phone and computer, boxes that let me communicate to other people – also in boxes. I spend my days walled in away from the earth, trees and air that comprise nature.
There was no spider in the cobweb. And what if there was one? I wonder if I have an evolutionary fear of spiders, or if that’s just an excuse. I imagine a few generations ago, people would calmly brush spiders away. They wouldn’t be disgusted by the slimy moss on the rocks or the wormy earth beneath dead wood. They wouldn’t mind weeds or ants.
I am starting to think we’ve surrounded ourselves by cold, dead technology – effectively barricading ourselves from nature. If there is nothing beyond ourselves and what we’ve created, it’s a terrible world. We can’t even see beyond the boxes. It’s impossible to be in touch with reality. And it’s really unhealthy.
Nature is quiet. It isn’t here to sell or to entertain, like almost everything else we observe in our technological world. It’s a place where we can think without being manipulated by a constant flow of advertisements, flashing colours, lights, noises and voices.
I underestimated the value of being out in nature. I’ve been reduced to a stranger, cringing when it touches me. But I don’t believe that’s the end for me. I think by taking to the time touch, watch and listen to the natural environment, I can become more aware of our place in it, because we can’t simply reject it. We are part of nature, and we impact it. We should let it impact us, as well.