Clamour, and the Love of the World

Monday June 22, 2009

So there I am, walking home late one evening after what has been a long and arduous day. For much of the day I have been sitting in meetings, talking over cups of coffee, and wrestling with ideas and thoughts and words and all the other things I spend my days wrestling with. But now, as I walk through the evening light – this is a couple of days ago, just before midsummer, and although it is late, the darkness has not yet fallen – I see a blackbird up in a tree, belting out a song, and I stop dead in my tracks. I don’t know enough about the politics of birds to know what it is singing about – whether it is yelling “Get off my land!” or whether it has (and this, I know, is more controversial) just had the thought, somewhere in it’s blackbird brain, “Oh, look, it’s a nice evening… What the hell, I’ll just have a little warble whilst I’m sitting here…” Either way, it is simply beautiful. And for a moment, as I listen to the bird, I find that I have no thought in my head about the comings and goings of the day. The bird is silhouetted against the evening sky; its song cuts through all of the clamour of the day. And the beauty of it all is breathtaking.

Biophilia, love of the world: this is not something spiritual or abstract or even particularly elevated. Instead, it is that sense that we can have, living beings that we are, of being alive, that immersion in the world of the senses where birds sing and light slants, and the path beneath the feet unfolds, the everyday, ordinariness of it all. And on that evening it was, for a few moments, so unutterably beautiful that the clamour of the various dramas in which I had been immersed for the day subsided. So I stood for a while admiring the blackbird, then I thanked it (it seemed the only polite thing to do) and made my way home.

It is remarkable how such a simple thing – an evening walk, a bird in a tree yelling its head off – can manage to cut through so much mental entanglement, can revive you when you are tired, can bring an almost immediate sense of well-being. And it occurred to me that evening that one of the things about the world is that it is largely indifferent to the human stories that we weave. We may be, as I have said before on this blog, storytellers by nature; but nature itself is not story-like. And because the stories that we weave can so often be limiting, can so often trap us, or can so often simply go over the same old ground, again and again, this attention to the world can loosen the bonds a little, can give us over to a kind of thinking that can help us find new paths and tracks through the world.

For me, there is a kind of Lucretian peace that can be found in attention paid to the world; and it is for this reason that frequently I find in scientific understanding a kind of stillness. On the other hand, I often find that religious dreams and ideas simply generate further clamour that adds to an already clamorous world. It is the tendency of projecting what are parochial human dramas onto the universe as a whole that depresses me most about a good deal of religious thought. This tendency seems to me to be both a discourtesy paid towards the universe, and also a denial of the true astonishment of living.

In these moments of astonishment at being alive, there on the road home, in these moments when the human dramas that we are caught up in find themselves in abeyance, there is a kind of bodily, living sense of being immersed in the world that breaks with all the dramas that we carry around in our heads. What I find most fearful about religion is this: that in its hunger to make everything conform to human stories, it might eliminate all those oases in which we can have respite from a kind of clamour that is entirely of our own making.

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#1 · ramon sanchez

23 June 2009

hi really loved this blog .not sure if love of nature isnt spiritual(often seems to be with me ..paganism?)but the idea that our stories limit reality as well as illuminate it and that religion is a story ….not to mention that its beautifully written……and you get in a plug for lucretius! made my day……. ramon(:(:(:

#2 · Paul Readman

23 June 2009

A rare and wonderful thing to find yourself living in the moment!

#3 · Elly Hobson

25 June 2009

Hi, on the subject of love the world I’d like to let you know why I am responding to this blog. I’m taking part in the world’s largest social reality game called Akoha. It’s still in its beta stage. The idea is that those playing do a number of missions aimed at increasing our karma points. The missions hopefully make people smile and encourage the players to undertake random acts of travelling kindness. Once a mission has been played the card is passed on and the recipient is encouraged to play and verify the ‘hop’ on the website. Thus the missions spread across the world increasing Karma and good deeds. Currently my mission is to read a blogger and feed a blogger. Hence I have read your blog and contributed. I will ask one of my friends to do the same….

#4 · marc

29 June 2009

for me lucretian peace means several differents things, but the sweetest one is: no more fear, death cannot touch you as long as you are alive, and death cannot touch you anymore when you are dead. i am living in the south west of france: in summer evenings, it’s very moving to hear swifts flying higher and higher in the sky.it’s almost painful to listen to their powerful(such a little bird!) shrieks.kind of madeleine de Proust.

and suddenly, before sunset, they disappear to the eyes and to the ears. it is only a few decades ago that a scientist discovered that swifts ,using columns of warm air, spend the whole night soaring, volplaning in the sky,while sleeping…

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