Thursday, April 14, 2016

Green Peace

I like to keep a layer of trees between me and the rushing madness of humanity.

Trees do not merely hide the frantic activity of business and politics, but actually absorb the pollution and noise. Psychological studies have shown that patients recover from surgery more rapidly when they can see a landscape of trees, and that children have reduced symptoms of hyperactivity if they play not just outdoors but in a setting of green plants.

But the peace that plants create is not merely a quiet absence of noise. Many people walk through parks and forests without noticing the plants, and while making their own loud noises. If there are no human structures in the forest, they may say “There’s nothing out here!” (Guess how many times I have heard this from my students.) But if you listen quietly and notice the details, you will become aware not just of the absence of noise but the presence of a powerful beauty. Gustav Mahler tapped into this power as he wrote his Third Symphony in a cabin by a forest and a meadow in the 1890s. It is a power that becomes stronger when you learn more about plants, ecology, and the evolutionary history of the Earth.

The world of plants is the real world, unlike the world of corporate boardrooms, paneled by dead trees. The powerful knowledge that you take back with you from the forest into your work and into human society will enable you to live joyously and to make the right decisions.

Originally published on in January, 2008.

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