The (Sad) Happy Naturalist

I started this blog with the premise that happiness is a choice. And it is. But sometimes sadness is a sign that it’s time to take notice of something important. If you feel what we call ‘negative’ emotions, explore them. Don’t stuff them or ignore them. They can teach you something.

I’ve been feeling a powerful desolation; I imagine it as a stream that’s run dry. Imagine your feeling of deep joy is a cool, clear lake. It’s fed by many streams: one of your streams might be partaking in music or art, another may be time with family or friends, or reveling in ideas and good books, or running – who knows. We’re all different, and our lakes are filled by different streams.

One of my streams is connection with what we label ‘nature’ – that which is wild, beautiful, harsh, untamed, and ineffably tantalizing. It’s an arbitrary and misleading label because really, we are natural, and nature is within us as well as around us. There is no separation… but in my middle-class, affluent, wired life, there’s the illusion of separation.

I feel disconnected. And disheartened. And tomorrow, I plan to share a field journal entry that evinces this.

I thought I shouldn’t share it. I thought you wouldn’t want to read it, or it would bring you down. And I want, rather, to inspire people to make a positive difference in the world.

But perhaps sharing the down moments of despair is a way of inspiring those who want to make a difference. Not every moment is a high, one of elation or accomplishment. Sometimes there is darkness, and sometimes the lake is dry.

And this is why Jane Goodall emphasizes hope for those who care about the planet and the biosphere. She noticed an entire generation (my generation) who got the message that the world was f*(k3d, that the rainforests were disappearing and species were going extinct and there was nothing we could do about it, except maybe recycle (which seems to have nothing to do with the problems we learned about) and don’t personally kill whales. And I’ve seen, in my campaign to reduce my plastic consumption, that the biggest critics of my message were people my age. They cried ‘hypocrite!’ and ‘ineffective!’, ignoring the message that our planet needs help, and we can do the helping.

Hope is important. The choice to be happy is important, especially as we strive to fight the influences that make the world a worse place.

It’s also important to acknowledge the dark times, the down times, the dry times.

And I hope, somehow, this entry and my future entries help you.

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16 thoughts on “The (Sad) Happy Naturalist

  1. One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite philosophers:

    “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”

  2. Well stated— there are always ups & downs. I look forward to what you have to share. Always seek to find the light– the positive– in a situation to help you through the dark or sadness in the situation. Sometimes that is difficult, but the path & the light will eventually be revealed. As we walk the path toward the solution to the problem, we grow. That is how we make ourselves better. Sitting on top of the world being happy sounds fun, but do we grow? Do we learn? Do we forget to reach down and make a difference?
    I will see what you have to say tomorrow. Thanks for sharing your heart felt thoughts with us.

  3. ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

  4. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

  5. I wonder that the sadness you feel is mourning your old life as you know it will change forever very soon. The bravery of expression is always inspiring but pull the yoke and come out of the nosedive.
    I also love the lake and stream reference. Great description

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