Perhaps we can start with Nature (image credit: anon) to refresh our understanding of its mystery. Nature fascinated humans since ancient times not only because they depended on it for livelihood and subsistence, but also because they realized that the key to their progress depended on discovering and understanding Natural mysteries – in extracting and formulating Natural processes in a workable form. The success of our ancestors in consolidating and refining knowledge, tools and methods by studying Nature is the key to our cumulative progress. Thomas Alva Edison (1847 – 1931) found inspiration from Nature “. . . nature made us – nature did it all . . .”
One will be astonished how Nature speaks to us – the songs of life – the songs of mystery – the songs of energy in all existence – sad, happy and sometimes angry. It is only necessary to have the calmness of mind to listen to and learn from the open book of Nature.
People often go through a fresh set of realization when they visit the vastness of space and ocean. It certainly happens to space explorers, but also happens to people facing the beauty of Natural wonders – mountains, valleys, deserts, oceans and canyons. It is like Louis Armstrong’s (1901 – 1971) famous song “. . . and I think to myself what a wonderful world . . .” Indeed it is very wonderful when one thinks about the diversity of the environment, plants and animals of planet Earth we call home. Some of this diversity we understand, some we do not, and some are beyond our reach – we can only fathom them by extrapolating existing knowledge.
Nature encompasses all and everything that exists on Earth and its atmosphere at normal ranges of temperature and pressure – with the Sun providing the energy to process and sustain them. It is the existence and the Natural processes that have not been largely modified, altered or interfered by humans.
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How does Nature work? The question may appear trivial in the 21st century, yet deeper meanings continue to shed light on virtually everything we do.
Elements of Nature – living plants and animals together with materials of all forms and sizes – are truly diverse and amazing, ever-changing in response to processes and interactions – strong and weak, long and short. All these elements as diverse as they are belong to a system interconnected with each other. Buddhism (Buddha – The Tathagata) says that Natural Order is a function of two universal laws – the Law of Impermanence or Transience – and the Law of Dependent-origination. Together, these two govern the interdependent flux of things in TIME – in spacetime.
Nature sustains and nourishes this interconnected diversity to maintain an order – a system where each does its share of the work by supporting each other in a web of activities. The order and balance make Natural canvas a beauty to behold and enjoy. Nature does not work haphazardly and is not subjected to anyone’s whims or wishes, but functions within its cycles of change and spreads of uncertainty. These are some of the Nature’s key characteristics. Uncertainty does not mean Nature is chaotic; rather its existence is an indication that Natural processes are hardly deterministic. Natural cycle is not a monochromatic phenomenon either but a superimposition of many cycles – long and short. Over time shorts appear stationary while longs suggest a trend.
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The wheel of Natural order directs the way Nature appears – the way it works, changes, grow and decay. The order ensures that Nature provides and sustains all – the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the Natural resources we harness to develop ourselves.
The wasteland that we see, the marshes and bogs that are no use to us, the thick jungles that mystify us are home to many lives. When humans ruthlessly destroy the habitats of these lives – they cry like what Michael Jackson (1958 – 2009) captured in his famous Earth Song “. . . what about us. . .” – the cry is to exert the right to exist, to live, and to reproduce.
Nature has mountains, valleys and deep oceans to maintain and control the ever changing fluid flow of air and water to generate climate. Earth’s solid surface continuously comes under pressure from the hot molten core to make room for its escape. The surface slab responds by cracking into jigsaw puzzles to receive the new comers while pushing the others down to the core – thus the balance of birth and destruction are integrals to the evolution of Nature.
However isolated or independent some diversity may appear – if one takes away any out of the building block of this order – the whole system would get distorted. And it takes time – short or long depending on the nature of disturbance – to adapt to the new situation and establish a new order. When this adaptation time exceeds human scale of doing things then we face a problem.
The order is not a one way process – it needs to be balanced to ensure equilibrium – and any unilateral attempt of exploitation destabilizes the system. It only makes sense that we understand them in true perspectives and make coordinated efforts to use resources in a sensible manner. The notion is not anti-development – it was rather coined as sustainable development. Anthropologists like Jane Goodall (1934 - ) and Environmentalists like David Suzuki (1936 - ) have been advocating this for long time.
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But do we know all the mysteries of Natural order? The Fundamental Laws of Nature reveals what governs Nature's functions.
Scientists of all disciplines, mathematicians and all thinkers and philosophers including religious leaders were able to uncover many of the Nature’s mysteries – albeit many may still remain under covers of mystery. Growing understanding is leading us to appreciate Nature conservation more than ever before. Fresh thinking shedding lights on Nature and bio mimicry as some of the best approaches to develop things in harmony with Nature.
Let us finish today by pondering on what would be the single most important characteristic that defines Natural life.
The single most characteristic that defines life and for that matter all existence, is the wheel of birth-growth-decay-death and birth again. Neither the time-scale nor the spread of uncertainty of this wheel is same for all existence but varies from one to the other. Each and every plant and animal species have male and female reproduction system that ensures continuity of life. If one thinks about it, one would soon realize that this characteristic defines all behaviors of existence including our thought processes and social interactions.
In the end, it is all about humans in the equation for the sustenance of Nature because we have developed the intelligence in mastering the capability to modify and exploit Nature to our liking. Despite being part of a Natural-born entity some of our actions are most often selfish – neither good to Nature nor to society. While recognizing the rights to exist of all living things and the necessity of conserving Nature, for a society to be peaceful, human behavior and social interactions must rise above some of Nature’s way of doing things however. And that behavior is called humanity.
In the next article I intend to see Natural order more closely – the Natural equilibrium.
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Here is an anecdote to ponder:
The disciple asked the master, “Sir, how come I am not hearing any song of Nature and seeing no Natural order.”
The master smiled, “Umm! Let me see. It is because you are thinking too much and are too eager.”
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- by Dr. Dilip K. Barua, 29 April 2016