Emerson was a passionate critic of rationalism (more so after visiting Thomas Carlyle) and materialism. He eschewed the notion of progress, and sought a slower pace. I love this quote, comparatively, nature does have a slower pace. Nature doesn’t subscribe to Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time for its completion.” Something we humans have artfully perfected. Within its own domain or context nature is probably zooming along, but compared to human endeavours, it is slow. Not all, but many species of tree take decades to reach maturity, some smaller plants, the humble asparagus are slow growing. The response of flora and fauna to the force of nature, its rhythms, its normal abnormalities like storms, fires, are at times, positively stoic. In Australia the ubiquitous eucalypts are survivors. In recent bush fires near us that generated a ferocious core heat, the trees were seemingly destroyed, but within a month, the appearance of green shoots told a different story, the trees had survived and were slowly coming back.
I wonder that we need to change tracks, collectively, across societies. There are many, many people who are engaging mindfully, many who have taken a contemplative stance in the world as a counter cultural praxis, but not yet enough to create a tipping point, a force for change. I believe we are getting to that point but we’re not quite there yet. The main step would be for us to disengage with Parkinson’s Law, to take a step back and ask ourselves, what would be the real cost of investing in mindfully approaching life, what would it cost me to self-care more, to rest more, to resist the desire to compete often, to take time for relationships, to be less driven… ?
It wouldn’t cost, well it would as it might mean simplifying our lives, reducing income to achieve changes, but really such costs would be an investment in our wellbeing and creativity. We humans desire approval, acceptance, validation, and more, we compete to get these things. But in the end what we are driven to achieve is not always positive or good for us. We need more being and less doing. And as Emerson wisely suggests, if we adopt the pace of nature, we are adopting a patient ferment.