“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circles of compassion
to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
~ Albert Einstein ~
I recently finished reading The Invention of Nature: Alexander Humboldt’s New World, by Andrea Wulf. At 400 pages, this book isn’t a quick read, but it’s worthwhile and enlightening. Born in 1769, “Humboldt gave us our concept of nature itself.” In this amazing book, Wulf describes Humboldt’s life and work as well as his influence on Charles Darwin, Henry David Thoreau, and John Muir, and countless other scientists, artists, and writers. In fact, Wulf writes, “Humboldt’s views have become so self-evident that we have largely forgotten the man behind them.”
A “sense of wonder for the natural world” lay at the heart of Humboldt’s work and writings, and is also found in the work of his followers. The importance of sharing and nurturing this wonder feels more urgent today than ever.
With Wulf’s words about Humboldt still swirling in my brain, it felt like serendipity when I came across these much-loved lines from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself:
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the
origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun—there are
millions of suns left,
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand,
nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the
specters in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself.
Here’s to listening to the world from all sides and learning the lessons nature is desperately trying to teach us.
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