This I Believe

Joshua - Atlanta, Georgia
Entered on December 17, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

I Believe There is No Substitute for Nature to Restore Perspective

Day after day, working as a business software developer, I spend an unnatural amount of time sitting behind computer screens with my eyes focused on one small rectangle of flickering colored dots, jabbing my finger tips and thumbs into little blocks arranged on an even smaller area all within a few feet of my chair. For many years, I rarely picked up a pencil or pen to write a letter or note by hand, and when I did I realized it felt almost alien to me.

Over the past few years, I have begun to return pen to paper again, sitting down at the table every so often to author a note card to a family member who lives in another state. This natural act of pressing upon the paper my own hand-written words has impressed upon my memory the importance of the personal nature of this nearly lost art. The sameness of Times New Roman or Arial all-purpose fonts of our emails has been a great convenience, but also an obstruction. After all, I reason, what fun is sending a letter to family members if they cannot complain and poke fun about my atrocious handwriting?

Aside from this more natural method of interpersonal communication, there is another natural method of relaxation and recreation that I and many others who sit behind desks in offices often overlook in our rush of daily life. The simple pleasure of walking through a natural area, relatively untouched by urban development, can be a very renewing and refreshing experience that I have found can rebalance my entire mental perspective after a stressful day or week fraught with panic and rush.

This simple activity can even bring clarity and focus in the middle of the day, to help prevent the recently described Directed Attention Fatigue, or Nature Deficit Disorder as described in the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. This is a condition in which the eyes and brain become strained by too much constant attention to objects residing only a few feet away. Researchers have found that simple acts like looking away from the screen, small breaks, and walking through natural spaces can help alleviate the symptoms and prevent accidents.

I have found that as I slow down and stroll through my favorite nature trails, or even just through ordinary areas with trees, I consciously observe just how many more sensory inputs I am enjoying. I take notice of the breadth and depth of my sensory experiences as my eyes pan across the landscape, my perception open to natural inputs from objects both near and far. I pay attention to the fluttering of the leaves on the trees and to the richness of the green of the grass beneath my feet. It’s far too easy to take all of this for granted.

I rush all day and night to accomplish that which may only be forgotten all the while paying not enough attention to that which is most certainly cast of eternal memory.

Standing beneath a large tree I try to count all of its branches and twigs. I cannot do it. Thinking of the stretch of its roots that lay beneath the soil underneath me, I imagine how they wind around and intertwine with those of nearby trees. I listen to all the birds chirp as they nest and feed their young amongst passerby squirrels who rustle around, chasing each other up and down and from limb to limb.

And, how much more intricate is the tiny hand of one of those squirrels, as he uses it to feed on an acorn, than all the sophistry wrapped up in so many business plans, shrink-wrapped software packages, and advertising budgets strewn across so many desks in so many offices across so many towns in so many countries?

How elegant and refined is a green leaf on a tree that can synthesize energy from the rays of the sun millions of miles away to sustain the life of its owner for many years on end?

Day after day, I may rush and push and find that I will fall. When I do, I always find that the birds, squirrels and trees are right there where they always were, doing things in exactly the same way and at exactly the same pace as they always have.

This I Believe