We Can Learn from Nature
Learning from the World We Live in
Nature has always been humanity's greatest teacher. From the earliest nomads to modern idealists, the great outdoors has shared its wisdom, its fruits gathered through time, and mankind has benefited greatly from this knowledge.
While man has become less reliant on his natural environment, nature has gone on. The lessons are still there. They are lessons learned only from experiencing nature for ourselves.
Yes, we can learn the importance of nature to man, and other ideals, but to actually learn what nature is, one has to be willing to immerse themselves in it. Whether that be a visit to a nearby woods or watching out a window that overlooks one's backyard, it makes no difference. It is the greatest lesson nature has to offer - that one must be willing to venture outside themselves to learn and grow.
There's a man-made pond, where a frog (pictured at right) lives. It's been living there for several years now, and it's a dangerous place for a frog. There are predators both mammal and avian that threaten its existence and the lives of the other frogs that live in the pond. There are certainly safer places for a frog to live.
But this particular pond draws an abundance of insect life, the sort that makes young frogs grow into magnificent specimens, like the one pictured in its rocky hideaway. It's a paradise for the frog, though it comes with a price. Cats, raccoons, hawks, herons, and kingfishers visit the pond. Sometimes, a young frog is taken, and all are reminded that not everything goes right all the time - not even in paradise.
There's a cost that comes from living in nature, and the frog knows this all too well. It spends its time lazing on lily pads and swimming in the green water, but it also climbs onto a stony perch, protected on all sides by rock, and watches the pond. It observes the green waters and tall cattails, and it undoubtedly learns from the experience, because the frog is a good watcher, a good listener. These are the traits that make the frog good at living in the pond, and its willingness to employ those traits in life are what make life good for it.
Nature's Lesson Against Standing Still
Many people, perhaps when they were children, stopped what they were doing and watched ants. Ants are common in most parts of the world, and they seem to enjoy urban life as much as rural, so they're visible to most people. Anyone that's spent time watching ants will notice one primary trait in each - the seeming will to work endlessly. It's not often they stand still - try taking a picture of one sometime!
Some might say ants do well to keep moving. They're small, and any bird or reptile could come along and eat them. But the reason they're always moving is because they're always working. They're gathering food or material that will help their ant communities. It's unlikely ants ever die of starvation - they simply wouldn't stop searching until they found something to eat. They'd more likely die of exhaustion first.
Humans and ants are very different, of course. We spend much of our time using our minds instead of our physical bodies. Still, the ant is a mentor to man, like the frog. Its will, strength, and determination are unmatched. Anteaters might destroy their homes and kill half their number, and they'll rebuild. They'll reproduce and replenish their numbers.
They are a tiny species in a world of giants, but the ant has the work ethic and indomitable spirit that has allowed it to survive - no thrive - for millions of years. And the lesson we learn from ants, by observing them in nature, is that tenacity pays off. They've thrived for so long because they're tireless in their efforts to keep their place in the animal kingdom, no matter what odds are stacked against them.
It's not hard to imagine man, throughout time, looking to the ant for inspiration, when times got tough.
Our Path Follows Nature's
Another important lesson man has learned from the great outdoors, through careful observation and study over many centuries, is that we are dependent upon it, no matter how far we isolate ourselves from it. The plant and animal kingdoms that thrive, when mankind leaves them be for awhile, are at the heart of what man is. It would have been so much easier to forget nature if we didn't look and behave like nature's own life.
We are just as much a part of nature as it is a part of us. The more modern the times, the less likely it is we will develop a stance of learning from nature in our lifetimes. The paved cities and sprawling suburbs have pushed wilderness away from many of us, but it's still there, waiting to reclaim what we took. It's just a matter of time.
For us, the best we can do is reach out to what wilderness environments we have nearby. Take a moment to watch the sun go down and see how all that's left are the shadows of trees and the limitless skies. Watch how the flowers are dependent on the insects and birds that frequent them, see how different some plants look in the mornings compared to evenings.
Plants and animals are ever competing with each other. They never stop adapting and surviving. Even the frog and ant know that their perfect world is one in which they thrive and succeed. The trees and flowers know to do everything they can to grow tall and strong, to better capture the sunlight they so desperately need to live. They instinctively understand that they are a part of the natural world, just as it is a part of them.
And the lessons from nature, for us, never end.