Over the past few weeks, I have had the privilege of interviewing undergraduate students at McMaster University (in Hamilton, ON, Canada) about their relationship with their favourite natural places. One theme that seems to come up again and again during interviews is a strong desire held by students to escape from society (at least periodically–and, often, not frequently enough) to a natural place where they actually feel at home.
These same students also voice their frustrations concerning how our globalized world works.
Many of them feel that our world is inhumane.
And, perhaps they are right.
These students look around them and see a world riddled with ethnic wars and environmental destruction. These students see people rushing around, keeping frantically busy, yet not knowing where they are headed. These students realize that no matter how hard they work–no effort, no matter how heroic–can guarantee them meaningful employment in an economy that seems to perpetually falter, at best.
Many students seek solace from this chaos in their favourite natural places. In these places, they feel a sense of welcome, a sense of peace, a sense of at-home-ness–feelings that seem to often evade them during much of their regular lives.
Students also mention that being in their natural places provides them with the opportunity to see their lives from a new vantage point, to realize that the (often unconscious) stories running their lives can be re-narrated. In their natural places, students ask themselves:
Does my life really need to be so complex?
What really matters to me?
How do I want to live?
In hearing these insightful comments from students, I began to wonder: how would our world look if individuals in positions of political power were too provided with the opportunity to re-visit their favourite natural places? Would these politicians realize what is truly important to them? Would they see that, in reality, money and power do not make the world go round? How would these realizations change their behaviour toward other people, and the planet?
In this way, maybe all it would take for the our world to change is for each of us to re-connect with our favourite natural places–
which is really no different from re-connecting with our true, authentic, selves.