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Nature: The Key to Understanding Ourselves

Natural occurrences and nature in general play a key role in connecting individuals with their inner person. With nature, one gets the opportunity to be themselves and go on a journey of self-discovery. This journey could provoke questions that one may need to find answers to be at peace with oneself, or it could be one where an individual gets to unearth dimensions of their personalities that they have never brought forth to the surface. Therefore, nature is essential in trying to understand oneself. Sitting and watching what happens in nature (including the cosmic environment) is crucial as it allows one to meditate and connect with their inner self. Furthermore, nature stimulates and arouses various aspects of an individual contributing to connecting and understanding their inner person.

Predominately, nature enhances our mental capacities and awakens our thought processes. The description by Annie Dillard, as she and her husband drove down to the Yakima valley, hints at this (Dillard 16). The author, who so happens to be the character in the essay, describes her perceptions of her actions. Annie Dillard states, “…I watched the landscape innocently, like a fool, like a diver in the rapture of the deep…” (Dillard 16 ). The statement shows and indicates a complex thought process. In a way, reflection on actions sustains a form of meditation which is the case for Annie Dillard (Sarbacker 70). Nature, it seems, triggers in her mind the capacity to think about her actions, reflect on them, question them, and even judge them (Dillard 16). Nature makes us think and question. The unlocked mental processes connect us with our inner selves, our perceptions of self at given times and moments, and make us question anything we do. This thought process is evident when the author comments on her actions and those of people around her (Dillard 18). The nature, such as the grass, and the hilltops on which she and other individuals were on to observe the eclipse, sets her mind wondering how their actions from a passerby may have looked; the nature here makes the author self-aware of her actions (Dillard). She states that they may have looked as though they were about to participate in rainmaking rituals and comically speculates that they may have given the impression of persons engaged in a virgin sacrificing ceremony.

Moreover, nature can inspire inspirational thinking in individuals. Annie Dillard’s comments on the eclipse are a perfect example of inspirational thinking. For example, she gives her thoughts when she states that “…kissing a man…” (Dillard 18) has the same effect as being bound by marriage to him. Annie Dillard juxtaposes this with a partial eclipse which she states “… bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse…” (Dillard 18). This linking of unrelated ideas can also be said to be creative thinking. The linking of the action of kissing a man and an eclipse, poetically, as Annie Dillard does, shows the impact that nature can have on an individual’s creativity. Research conducted on the subject establishes a correlation between nature, and creative, if not inspirational, thinking (Williams et al. 38). Nevertheless, it is clear that nature stimulates the author’s mind and makes her self-aware of her actions. In making the author self-aware, outdoors, in a way, connects the person to their inner self, their values, opinions, and perceptions of self, if not that of others.

Nature enhances our senses. The author’s recollections, Annie Dillard, are pretty remarkable; her description of the events that happened two years before the writing of the essay is a clear depiction of this. Her vision seems to have been pretty impressive. Her recollections of how the sun looked before the ellipse event indicate this fact. In her essay, she states that the sun was “…lustless yellow…” and that the sky in the westward direction was clear and blue (Dillard 18). Her recollection of the sensations she experienced while on the hilltop as “…freezing..” and her remembrance of how her shadow was is descriptive enough to give the impression of an image frozen in time (Dillard 18). Furthermore, her description of the eclipse is pretty amazing and denotes, as mentioned earlier, an aroused physical state. Her ability to remember, what she saw, felt, and thought of at that moment, speaks to an awakened state of mind. Nature has this effect, it seems, on individuals. One of the visual effects of nature is that it increases attention span, which is pretty evident in Annie Dillard’s recount of her experiences (Franco et al. 7). Riddell et al. (458) confirm this assertion by stating that nature impacts memory and concentration. Nature’s effect on Annie Dillard is evident in her recollections of the tiniest of details. Nature, therefore, enhances one’s senses and abilities.

Usually, nature puts everything into perspective. As the eclipse event takes place, Annie Dillard’s mind starts to see the events as though they are from another world. Her mind tries to capture the importance of such an event. Annie Dillard tries to understand what it is she is seeing. The people around her seem from a lifetime away. In this novel experience, she understands how time passes by, how short life is, and the importance of experiencing all that life offers (Dillard 20). The author questions the occurrence of such an event and states that her mind viewed the moon as not something that should be obscuring the sun’s light. Her mind tries to understand the logic of the occurrence. She wanders on to the questions of existence, and those of our conscience, life, and death (Dillard 21). The mind, it seems from experiencing such an event, moves on into a trance-like state, unable to fathom the distinction between fantasy and reality to understand the meaning of such an event (Dillard 22). Annie States, that “… Our minds were light-years distant, forgetful of almost everything…” (Dillard 21). The form the author describes is similar to that described in the Buddhist beliefs of their existence, a state of nothingness, where there is no perception and non-perception (Sarbacker 72). Nature, in a way, focuses the human mind on the most fundamental questions such as reality, what it is, and consciousness concerning the world and the entire universe.

Similarly, nature connects us with our surroundings. Annie Dillard’s recollection of her surroundings is pretty vivid when she is in contact with nature. The memories of her feelings, perceptions, and what she saw are way more explicit than when she is in other settings. Nature seems to make her much more aware of her surroundings. For instance, Annie Dillard’s descriptions of the hilltops and the cosmic event of the eclipse make one feel the author’s connection with her surroundings (Dillard 18). Her descriptions of the sky as “…navy blue…” supports this assertion. She was present. She felt seconds go by and witnessed every slight change occurring around her; the eclipse, the wind movement, and the appearance of the persons around her on the hilltop (Dillard pp.20-21). In reading her recollections, it is evident the connection the author has with her surroundings.

On the other hand, nature can make us dissociate from ourselves and make us unable to understand what we are experiencing. The eclipse sent Annie Dillard’s mind into confusion and wonder; she could not understand the significance of such an event (Dillard 22). To Annie Dillard, the event was surreal; her mind and her body were detaching from each other in her recollection. The idea of reality was marred, murky, and incomprehensible (Dillard 24). In the author’s view, the event was devastating at best. When they encounter such events of nature, individuals can experience fear. This situation is evident in Annie Dillard’s explanation, and research by Ward Keeler, on the Javanese population during an eclipse. In her article, she states that individuals went home on eclipse day, and the markets were to be closed (Keeler 92). Similarly, Annie Dillard’s experience of the occurrence left her feeling “… disembodied, frail, and exhausted …” (Dillard 22). As nature can make one think and question their actions, opinions, and thoughts, connecting one to their inner self, the soul can do the opposite. It can make one dissociate from the physical body into the mental realm, where one cannot link the physical person and the inner self.

In conclusion, nature and other happenings, such as Cosmic events, ensure that individuals connect with themselves. Connecting with the inner persona is tricky in different situations due to distractions, but nature provides a suitable environment for such an activity. Nature connects us to our inner selves by making us think and question our actions and viewpoints. Nevertheless, nature can also make us unable to connect with ourselves.

Works Cited

Dillard, Annie. “Total Eclipse.” The Abundance: Narrative Essays Old And New. Ecco, An Imprint Of Harpercollins Publishers, 2016, pp. 15-28.

Franco, Lara S., Danielle F. Shanahan, and Richard A. Fuller. “A review of the benefits of nature experiences: More than meets the eye.” International journal of environmental research and public health 14.8 (2017): 864.

Keeler, Ward. “Sharp rays: Javanese responses to a solar eclipse.” Indonesia 46 (1988): 91-101.

Riddell, Tara, et al. “Healthy Habits: Positive Psychology, Journaling, Meditation, and Nature Therapy.” Humanism and Resilience in Residency Training. Springer, Cham, 2020. 439-472.

Sarbacker, Stuart Ray. “Buddhist Meditation and the Ethics of Human Augmentation.” Journal of the Japanese Association for Digital Humanities 5.2 (2020): 61-83.

Williams, Kathryn JH, et al. “Conceptualising creativity benefits of nature experience: Attention restoration and mind wandering as complementary processes.” Journal of Environmental Psychology 59 (2018): 36-45.


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