Friday 15 June 2018

On being wonder-full

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky;”

That was about William Wordsworth’s heart, which leapt up in 1807. Remember the last time your heart leapt on seeing a rainbow? Or for that matter, even the rain (or the sun, depending on our geography)?

Earlier, as a child, a rainbow was to me a reincarnated fairy from the glossy storybooks my father got from faraway places, spreading out her eastman colour wings. (According to ancient Japanese beliefs, ancestors use the bridge of rainbows to descend on earth.0 But now, courtesy science, first to come to mind are terms like spectrum and vibgyor.

By giving us an insight into nature, science meant to better cement our relationship with nature, to make us an integral part of it. Sadly, though, we repeatedly fail to achieve this, ignoring the many trinkets nature has on display: a toddler’s hysterical giggle (unless offered to us via some viral videos network), an impudent bird on the window sill, a uniquely arched tree . . . We do not have to be Alices in Wonderland to discover all of this. We do need to peek out of our cubbyholes, spare a few moments each day to take in everything beauteous around us that we take for granted in our pursuit of a happiness that is always receding faster than the pace with which we gambol towards it.

Even if the speed of light is slowing down, and even if that might cast an effect on thermodynamics and quantum physics, isn’t it a relief to know that despite climate change the morning sun still softly filters down the hibiscus petals in the lone pot which we forgot to irrigate yesterday in our morning gallop? That moment of standing and staring will probably give us an added incentive to fight climate change, make the battle personal, and so on. Pausing to take in the various elements of nature around us betters concentration and increases our patience.

When life gets infested with the vagaries of this world, I turn to nature for reassurance. The very feeling that I am a part of something so enchanting and true leads to supersonic pain relief. That is why I added this PS when talking to my broker for a new accommodation: “Please see if there is a tree around.”

I look at a tree and think: It took years to grow this tall and now it just stands there, in quiet dignity as so many birds, humans, plants, insects benefit from its presence. Its years are etched as carvings in its bark, a proof of all it endured and embraced, of how it made its own everything that had come to meet it, whether to offer homage or hostility.

A Stanford study found that people who took walks in nature were less likely to be depressed. Ecotherapists recommend spending quality time with nature to fight maladies. If someone still does not have reason enough to turn more animstic, they can turn to Wordsworth again, who believed nature to be “a teacher whose wisdom we can learn, and without which any human life is vain and incomplete”.

First published in Deccan Herald, 28 May 2018.

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