“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” –Albert Einstein
When I look at the immense Mahogany tree on the bank of the Sand River teeming with life, I realize that I am “stand[ing] at the cradle of true art and true science.” I feel a soft jolt of energy; it’s a cross between shivers up my spine and butterflies in my stomach. I feel engaged and provoked. I begin to think about the energy it took to create the dense bark and dark green leaves—the energy that fuels our ecosystem. The sun’s nuclear reactions send light energy down to earth allowing this behemoth perennial plant to reach skyward and sustain its full potential. This process—photosynthesis—would be unbelievable if it weren’t for the physical product; light energy seems supernatural, and yet I can touch the tree right in front of me.
Driving around the bush, I find it hard not to wonder about the pervasive and yet intangible naturally occurring energy generating everything I encounter, and I am astonished to remember that I am somehow a part of this mystery.
Einstein revolutionized the way we view the natural world. I find both solace and inspiration in his admission: “I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence–as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the reason that manifests itself in nature.” I’m relieved to hear the world’s most influential physicist talk about what a mysterious world we live in. His work showed us that everything could be broken down into pure energy, or electromagnetic radiation, of which visible light is one form. When reduced, therefore, all mass is energy moving at the speed of light.
So, with E=MC2, Einstein postulated that by multiplying our weight by the speed of light squared, an unimaginably enormous number, a human being has more pure energy than the explosion of an atomic bomb. This equation is proof of the existence of boundless physical energy both in and around us. If we are made up of pure energy, my curiosity leads me to wonder what kind of potential I have that I have no idea how to access. But, for now, who cares? After all we haven’t figured out how to turn our bodies into pure energy and we can only see a fraction of the electromagnetic spectrum (visible light) responsible for all the energy. But it’s there. It’s in me, in the tree and I think most interestingly, in the space in between.
There are those of us who have felt a connection to the land. We are drawn out into the bush for reasons we can’t always identify, and we return healed in some way. A lion’s thundering roar reminds us of our own beautiful power; a young bull elephant’s flapping dancing display reminds us of our youthful bravado; a tree reminds us of the vibrancy of life. But now we know the connections are more than just reminders. There’s real energy in the perceived empty spaces. The Mahogany invited me into a conversation and put on a massive display of both grounded power and warm receptivity. The message I received was unnervingly concrete: there is strength in opening yourself up to the world.
As much as the positivist mind needs to see proof, the truth is that nature is evidence of all of this unlimited potential energy. Our ecosystem is a miraculous confluence of the intangible and tangible, the light and the tree, and I’m choosing to take part.
Standing out in the bush, witnessing the life cycle first hand, I’m wondering how I can further tap into this dynamic and ever-evolving energy network. What other conversations are there to be had? Marine biologist and poet, David Whyte, explains that “human genius lies in the geography of the body and its conversation with the world.” The original usage of the term genius, genius loci, referred to the spirit of a place. That feeling you get when you connect to the natural world, whether it is the lion, the elephant, the tree, or even the ocean, is very real, and, in fact, it’s the most genuine experience you can have. The authenticity of the natural world can bring us back to ours. I think Whyte is intuiting the shared foundational energy that connects and communicates with everyone and everything on the planet. We just need to get out there to see and feel it.
My conclusion is that spending time in the bush is the beginning of one of the most healing processes I have ever been through. So far I’m seeing new levels of patience that actively invite me into conversation with deeper parts of myself. Likewise, seeing light as ubiquitous real energy has shifted the way I look at nature. I see the light transforming in and around the tree, and I see it at my fingertips. I feel moved to more fully participate in the conversation—the world. I’m curious to hear what’s out here for you.