For I have learned to look on nature, not as in the hour of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes the still, sad music of humanity. ~ William Wordsworth
This week I attended and presented at the Heroism Science conference, one that presented theoretical and practical exploration of acts of heroism and ways of being heroic. But it also looked at how our neoliberal world works against heroism and instead promotes individualistic narcissistic egocentricity rather than noble purpose and common good.
And then days later was news of the Nice terror attack, an antithesis to heroic behaviour. I have small children at home who are too young to listen to news of atrocities committed by people on other people. I don’t watch the 5 o’clock or 6 o’clock news. If I’m driving with my children in the car I turn the volume off if the news comes on the radio. I pick up a lot of my news on Twitter during the day and sometimes catch up in the evening.
This week we went far from televisions and 24/7 commentary. It has been school holidays for me and the small people in my life, so we have gone outdoors.
Into nature we went.
My husband always tells our children, “Explorers take their time.”
We went slowly and deliberately.
We haven’t been hunting Pokemon but we have been chasing muddy adventure.
We went outside to embrace the wintry outdoors and walk, ride, dig.
Curl fingers and toes in mud.
Fill our ears with the roaring of oceans and waterfalls.
Fill our senses with aromas of gumtrees and wet leaves.
Crowd out the noise with silence and stillness and nature.
I know escape doesn’t help the world to be a less frightening place. The world continues to be one in which terror attacks now have a familiar news cycle and even more familiar internet memes. One in which beacons of racism and xenophobia are an accepted part of the Western political landscape. One in which the ordinary person can’t comprehend their reality let alone see a way to enact meaningful change. But it helps us to ground ourselves in the world and be present, as human beings rather than human doings.
As a parent, teacher, coach and school leader my hope is that I can have an impact on helping people find the best versions of themselves. Kind, thoughtful, even heroic selves who work towards a better world. As a researcher my hope is that I can be a disruptive cog in the neoliberal machine, challenging from the inside systems that value self-interest, profit and metrics over equity, ethics and freedom. I aspire to find a balance between working with systems that exist and ethical activism.
As an antidote to images and words of violence and terror, here are some of our grounding moments in the natural world this week.