By Helene Szabados
In our concrete civilization, it can be challenging to find authentic ways to relate to nature. We must practice going beyond our societal walls to see that we are nature and our relationships with the natural world are representations of our self-care. Peaceful World Foundation hosted its first conversation of the year with the aim to explore our human relations. We invited a handful of guests from around Tides’ Nonprofit Sector including; Friends of the Urban Forest, Search Inside Yourself Institute and Pachamama Alliance. We also welcomed an old friend, an original docent of Peaceful World Conversations at The Red Victorian.
The topic of conversation was as follows:
How do we begin to explore our relations?
We will be discussing our relations with the physical world
including self, human, animal and natural relations.
Our ice breaker question quickly lead us to discussing the difference of living in nature versus living with nature. The idea of pursuing the nomadic lifestyle of living in the wild is desirable to many, but few fully commit to letting go of our material society to be taken care of by nature. A lifestyle of living with nature also requires a commitment that is conversely directed toward taking responsibility for nature, such as house plants, gardens or even domesticated animals.
We further explored the control that comes with owning nature. Although an animal is domesticated and has evolved to accommodate companionship, it is important to acknowledge the amount of control we have over our pets and plants. A participant from Peaceful World Foundation spoke about her son being a collector of nature, describing the tadpoles, spiders and even scorpions that he brings home. She explained that her son observes his animals with a sense of wonder and an opportunity to practice stewardship with the natural world.
One of our guests mentioned her relationship with the natural world resonates in simple ways; eating food from the earth and craving to walk on the grass instead of the concrete. She has been actively seeking to slow herself down and beginning to question her purpose on the planet. Trusting the planet is a practice, but something that can slowly show us why we are here.
Our conversation took a dark humored turn when someone brought up the ways in which humans try to recreate nature. We all giggled at the idea of a babbling brook soundtrack. We spoke about the selective gardening our society practices and the methods we use to tame our natural world. The famed Tulips of Holland were shared as an example of the human impact on nature. The tulips have to be cultivated because they are not native to Holland, they were imported from the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) in the sixteenth century. The tulips became so popular they created the first economic bubble called, “Tulip Mania”, where tulips were even used as currency. This led us into considering the cynicism and segregation that arises around humans returning to the natural world. We receive nature through a lens of humanism, continuously demanding nature to accommodate to our lifestyles. It is time to see nature for what it is; natural.
We shifted our conversation to focusing on the relationships we have with ourselves. A guest from Friends of the Urban Forest spoke about how his relations with plants, animals and other humans serve as a representation of the relationship he holds with himself. If your potted fern is thriving, then you are probably thriving as well. I began questioning whether it is even possible to define our relationships with ourselves, because we are constantly growing and changing. Another patron shared that with maturity you can define your present situation and practice making goals to work towards an evolved version of yourself. We constantly change but that is the journey of self-discovery because the relationship we have with ourselves is not a destination but rather an adventure.
As time declared its working hours, our table got much more intimate; as did our conversation. We were nearing the end of our breakfast and there was still so much to talk about. In my experience with conversations, we can cover a lot more substance with a smaller table of people. I posed the question to the remaining four participants, “What do my relationships with other people look like?”
We began on the topic of strangers; describing the vibes that we can feel even when we are introduced to someone new. We can easily be taken by someone else’s presence unless we practice the returning to what is our own story. As a table, we followed the tides of conversation into modern love. I had done some research on opinions and articles about what modern love is perceived to be, in preparation for this topic. I relayed to the table that the research I had found on modern love was actually quite discouraging and asked what their experiences with it. A guest spoke about the adventure she has been having with love while living in Berlin. She has been exploring the fluid, diversely noncommittal environment of Berlin and compared it to San Francisco’s love scene but on a much greater scale. This led us into discussing the passion that arises in small time frames such as vacations and how different it can be to find love when we are settled into an environment.
Another aspect of modern love that was brought up was internet dating. Although the table seemed weary of the online dating tool, we all related to having groups of friends who completely rely on it. There is a balancing act we perform between our “dating-friends” and our “single-friends”. Difficulties can arise when we are seeking partnership but do not relate to the modern dating tools that our society depends on. In conclusion, we summed up love by stating that if you participate in the activities that bring you joy, love will find you. Sometimes, love is sitting right in front of you.
“The greatest gift we can give to the world are relationships that work.”
– Sami Sunchild, 1979
The topic of relations can quickly become complex because we rarely realize we hold relationships with everything in our lives. It is important to take time to reflect on our relations because it gives us the opportunity to address the connections that don’t serve us. In reflection, we also have a chance to explore where we are in all these relations and how our choices affect the world around us.