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The Silent Music of the Mind: Remembering OliverSacks
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“The exceeding beauty of the earth, in her splendour of life, returns a new believed via eincredibly petal,” the nineteenth-century English nature writer Ricdifficult Jefferies composed. “The hrs once the mind is absorbed by beauty are the just hours as soon as we really live.”

The the majority of productive seeds of cultural sensibility deserve to take generations to bimpend. In the twentieth century, Jefferies’s ideas became a significant incentive for Rachel Carson (May 27, 1907–April 14, 1964) — the pioneering marine biologist and writer who catalyzed the modern ecological activity and also ushered in a new literary aesthetic of creating about science as somepoint inseparable from life and inherently poetic.

You are watching: What is the nature of the world around us

Carson examined the question of beauty as a lens on comprehending the world in a stunning speech she delivered prior to a summit of women journalists in 1954, later on publimelted under the title “The Real World Around Us” in Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson (public library) — the indispensable volume that provided us Carson’s prescient 1953 protest versus the government’s assault on scientific research and nature.

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Photograph by Maria Popova

Unafrassist of being seen as sentipsychological, this uncynical scientist, who eight years later would awaken the modern environmental conscientific research and that taken into consideration her life animated by “a preoccupation via the wonder and beauty of the earth,” adds:

I believe natural beauty has actually a crucial location in the spiroutine advancement of any kind of individual or any culture. I believe that whenever we destroy beauty, or whenever we substitute somepoint synthetic and synthetic for a natural feature of the earth, we have actually retarded some component of man’s spiritual expansion.

I believe this affinity of the humale heart for the earth and its beauties is deeply and logically rooted. As people, we are part of the totality stream of life. We have actually been people for perhaps a million years. But life itself — passes on something of itself to other life — that mysterious entity that moves and also is aware of itself and its surroundings, and so is distinguimelted from rocks or senseless clay — life arose many type of numerous countless years ago. Due to the fact that then it has actually developed, struggled, adapted itself to its surroundings, progressed an boundless number of forms. But its living protoplasm is constructed of the very same aspects as air, water, and rock. To these the mysterious spark of life was added. Our origins are of the earth. And so tbelow is in us a deeply seated response to the herbal cosmos, which is component of our humankind.

With a cautious eye to “this devastation of beauty — this substitution of artificial ugliness — this trfinish towards a perilously artificial world” — cautiousness rendered tragically prescient in the retrospect of half a century of irreversible environmental devastation in the hands of mercimuch less capitalism — Carchild admonishes against the comalteration of nature as a marketable reresource for human use:

Beauty — and also all the worths that derive from beauty — are not measured and also evaluated in terms of the dollar.

Looking earlier on the innumerable letters from readers she had actually received in response to her groundbreaking book The Sea Around Us — a book that crowned the New York Times bestseller list for thirty-nine weeks, made Carboy the the majority of renowned nonfiction writer in America, and earned her the National Book Award — she notes that she heard from people as varied as “hairdressers and also fishermen and also musicians, “classical scholars and also scientists,” that all articulated a kindred sentiment:

So many type of of them have actually said, in one phrasing or another: “We have been troubled around the civilization, and also had nearly shed confidence in man; it helps to think about the lengthy history of the earth, and also of how life came to be. And as soon as we think in terms of countless years, we are not so impatient that our own troubles be solved tomorrow.”

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Picture by Maria Popova

Returning to the Jefferies lines that had so influenced her, she adds:

In contemplating “the exceeding beauty of the earth” these world have actually discovered calmness and courage. For tbelow is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds; in the ebb and circulation of the tides; in the folded bud prepared for the spring. Tright here is something infinitely healing in these repetitive refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and also spring after winter.

Carchild ends on a note of lucid hope in the face of humanity’s destructively short-sighted descent into “an man-made people of its own creation”:

For this unhappy trend tbelow is no single remedy — no panacea. But I believe that the more plainly we have the right to emphasis our attention on the wonders and realities of the world around us, the less taste we shall have actually for damage.

The entirety of Lost Woods is a trove of abiding wisdom from among humanity’s the majority of elevated and also elevating minds. Complement it via Henry Beston, among Carson’s great heroes, on rediscovering to live in harmony with nature, then revisit Carboy on creating and the loneliness of creative work and also her virtually unbearably touching deathbed farewell to her soul mate.

See more: What A Great Idea Inventions That Changed The World, Inventions That Changed The World Stephen M

UPDATE: For more on Carson, her epoch-making cultural contribution, and also her inexplicable private life, she is the crowning figure in my book Figuring.