Monday, October 9, 2006

Effect of natural world

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

The sociologist Max Weber described the breakdown of social norms and values when Europe moved from a rural to an industrial society. Its people were uprooted and transformed from family units to alienated individuals fending for themselves in the big cities. He called this phenomenon anomie. This may lead on to a reason why many people have a strong connection between happiness and nature in all its wildness. A return back to the simplicity of rural ways. Community. Perhaps it is simply the escape from the noise of the town. St. Exubery said of flying that “it releases [one’s] mind from the tyranny of petty things.” Some might simply say that to look at nature’s beauty is to experience a revelation of God. Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Gift from the Sea describes how it can clear the head of one’s worldly woes, “Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes…One becomes…flattened by the sea; bare, open, empty as the beach, erased by today’s tides of all yesterday’s scribblings.”

A phrase often used is that of feeding the soul. When looking out to sea, the connection can be almost visceral. Like the filling up of a spiritual tank. In On Whales, Roger Payne describes it as “a sort of celestial phlogiston, which … restores souls and sets minds straight.” This he compares to city dwellers whose disconnection with nature has drained them of this goodness to the point of what he calls urbanicide, “until they are a hollow husk of the full ripe ear of their pastoral ancestors”.

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