Saturday, 21 November 2009

“Tongues in Trees”

“Tongues in trees, sermons in stones, books in running brooks and good in everything”

Shakespeare put these words into the mouth of Jacques in “As You Like It” and what a wonderful way it is of looking at and understanding the natural world, our own place in it and our relationship to it. It reminds us so succinctly, that we are unwise to travel through this life without familiarising ourselves with Mother Nature for there is so much to learn from her.

It is an unfortunate fact that the arrogance which has developed in human beings over the millennia prevents us from learning so many of the lessons nature has to teach us for we need humility and patience to understand her properly. Both these qualities are completely over-ridden by our arrogance. We think we know best. The most obvious and ridiculous example of this was the Saxon King of England, Canute, who ordered his throne to be set up on the beach close to the sea, for he, the most powerful person on earth (he thought), would command the tides to do his bidding instead of their normal function. Such arrogance was easily punctured of course when the tide did exactly what it always did and one would think we would learn from such an example.

It appears we do not learn very quickly for each generation creates its absolutes, whether in science, economics, politics or any other field. We constantly fail to understand the simple truth that the finite can never comprehend the infinite and there can be no absolutes in this illusory world of opposites that we create for ourselves. Were we to practice greater humility, study the natural world more objectively and apply its lessons to the conduct of our own lives, we should find far less conflict in our world and much greater tolerance.

We would come to realise the fundamental truth of the phrase, “To everything its season.” Learning the lesson of the seasons teaches patience and an acceptance that there are things we cannot change and therefore to try is pointless. Were we truly to study the stones, instead of just analysing them and then exploiting their properties for our own greater convenience and comfort, we should discover the reason for their existence. We would uncover the fact that they have their part to play in the co-operative plan that constitutes life and that nothing, no matter how insignificant it appears to be in our view, but has “a place important in the scheme of Him who planned this scale of beings.”

If we really learn about the balance that the natural world creates and maintains, we should realise the vital importance of applying that lesson in all human affairs. When humanity were hunter/gatherers and later as agrarian communities, we understood this question of balance intrinsically but somewhere along the line, greed removed common sense and we created the giant Dust Bowl in the USA, we created a shortage of fish and may well be depriving ourselves of life-giving rain through indiscriminate de-forestation. This latter, despite knowing what we are doing!

The trees, the stones and the brooks all contain vital lessons for us to learn but we must be careful not to blind ourselves to the real lessons by allowing greed and arrogance to restrict our understanding as we have done so often; to see only what we want to see! The Creator gave us the power of reason and a wellspring of love through which to direct that reason; He shows us every day of our lives, just what love, tolerance and understanding can achieve; in nature He shows us, were we to uncover our eyes, that conflict is purely partial and where it exists, it reinforces the total balance and harmony that reigns there, the “good in everything.”

As John Milton so eloquently explained in Paradise Lost, – “In contemplation of created things, by steps we may ascend to God.”

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