Contribution by freelance writer Sally Keys
Whichever way we look at it, the Earth gives us everything we need to survive and advance. Even when we go back thousands of years, we can find evidence of human life thanking the Earth for its natural offerings on the walls of caves and in the form of ceremonial monuments. Our planet selflessly gives us water to drink, food to eat, medicine, and material to build homes and shelters with.
Indeed, when we take a look at the hierarchy of needs as laid out by humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow, in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”, most of the physiological and safety needs would be impossible to achieve without Nature.
Nature’s Role in Spiritual Growth
The hierarchy of needs teaches us that self-actualization, the need that people have to achieve their full potential as human beings, is what ultimately drives the human spirit forwards. While food, water, sex, reproduction, and shelter are necessary for our survival, our happiness is inextricably linked to something much greater: psychological growth and spiritual development.
Taking Care of Nature
The destruction of Nature and the way in which modern lifestyle isolates us from the natural world is a problem. We need to spend more time protecting our natural resources, not destroying them. Getting involved in volunteer projects to take care of Nature, just as much as it takes care of us, can be an effective way of increasing feelings of happiness.
Not only do volunteer projects provide us with the perfect opportunity to protect the one thing that truly gives us what we need to survive, but we also get the chance to spend more time immersed in the outdoors. Modern life has encouraged us to spend more and more time physically separated from Nature. The more time we spend actually walking through the forest, washing our hands in the stream and looking up at the sky, the happier we will feel.
We only have to take a brief look at Nature’s influence on Art over the ages to understand how important the Earth is to us on a deeper level. For example, where would poetry be without flowers? The power of landscapes to move our emotions, when captured in paintings and in films, is undeniable. The Jungle Book would be nothing without Baloo. Shakespeare’s Juliet beauty was compared to that of a rose. Without Nature, we lose Art. And without Art, we lose the power of expression and the beauty of feeling connected.
While many human beings choose to measure the importance of Nature through economic value or scientific worth, the most difficult of Nature’s gifts to “measure” is its connection to our spirituality. While the spiritual self is not always linked to religion, it is more than relevant to explore the revered place that Nature has been given in so many of the world’s religions.
Christianity tells the story of a paradise on Earth, rightly situated in the beauty of a garden, and documents the efforts of Noah as he’s commanded by God to save two of every species on the planet. Buddhism teaches that all life is sacred. Muslims believe that Nature was given to humans as a gift from Allah. Indigenous cultures all over the world have celebrated the existence of Nature as their “mother”.
The Human Spirit
Those of us who aren’t religious have felt the great impact Nature has on the human spirit. We have spent time contemplating a waterfall and lost complete track of time. We have benefitted from the calming feeling of the beach and the rolling ocean waves. We have fallen in love with animals and their endless sense of compassion. We’ve felt the insignificance of our being upon looking up and taking in the great expanse of the star-filled sky.
The difficulty is that in today’s technologically advanced and highly industrious society, we continue to isolate ourselves from Nature and the natural gifts that it bestows upon us, turning a blind eye to its constant destruction and vanishing resources.
It will be a very sad day indeed if the Earth’s great treasures were to finally vanish completely as a result of our negligence. The brutal fact of the matter is we simply wouldn’t survive. Not only would we be incapable of sustaining life for more than a couple of days without water, but we would also suffer from the loss of beauty, art, and spirituality. So, it’s time to fully embrace the overwhelming impact Nature has on our lives and explore how it holds the key to fulfillment and spirituality, just as much as our basic survival.