online: 19 april 2010
modified: 18 april 2010

18 april 2010 in harmony with nature

at the Vale of Health Pond

...this afternoon the water surface is smoother than usual... though shimmering in tiny wavelets induced by a slight wind... i feel at ease despite inability take any action today but walking here and contemplating this scene... a few ducks, coots, a swan and now a magpie... and voices nearby... but each of these performing more slowly than has been usual in the recent months of wintry weather calling for brisk action... but today all's calm and almost warm...

...but apart from this my thoughts are with the poem

'In Harmony with Nature

by Matthew Arnold*

...he calls the preacher a fool for proposing that we should live in harmony with nature... for all that's human is beyond the cruelty of nature and the death that's part of it (but perhaps i'm not remembering the poem correctly?)...

...however this scene (the houses with lawns sloping down to the water, the block of flats in modernist style) is artificial (as is the placing of the garden trees next to the water's edge and the forest)... the scene as a whole is surely a harmony of nature and art together?... as is life itself in all it's aspects, cruel or kindly, deadly or lively... attention is caught by an orange lifebuoy on a post across the water... and now I see amber streetlights (along the path to the village) that have switched on automatically about 2 hours before darkness... the solitary swan moves slowly across the pond and a duck flies about fifty feet above...

...the swan comes close and stands in shallow water to groom it's feathers while its mate is nesting (i guess) somewhere nearby...

...but i doubt this distinction between art and nature... as the swan contorts it's neck to peck at nearly all of it... and it rubs the unreachable back of it's head against the feathers of it's wings and back... and now it's completed it's topological toilet and swims away... more quickly than before... and i still doubt the distinction...

...what can we conclude from all this?... that 'conclusions' are invalid... or deceptive... or mistaken perhaps?... or that reality is both thing-and-idea, an integration more easily imagined than explained?

...back to the moment... someone's pet dog is worrying the swan on the other side of the pond... but now the dog and it's owner are gone....

...on my way across the heath i was glad to meet again the man with 5 or 6 Japanese huskies as i call them (a different breed from Arctic husky)... i have not seen him for several years... and today he said he'd never seen so many people on the heath... he ascribed it to the total absence of aeroplanes (because of volcanic ash)... whereas i thought it might be because of the late arrival of warm air and dry ground (allowing dozens to sit and lie in small groups and picnics in all directions, far more than i recall)

* here is the poem (written by Matthew Arnold in 1844-7):

In Harmony with Nature


'In harmony with Nature?' Restless fool,
Who with such heat dost preach what were to thee,
When true, the last impossibility-
To be like Nature strong, like Nature cool!

Know, man hath all which Nature hath, but more,
And in that more lie all his hopes of good.
Nature is cruel, man is sick of blood;
Nature is stubborn, man would fain adore;

Nature is fickle, man hath need of rest;
Nature forgives no debt, and fears no grave;
Man would be mild, and with safe conscience blest.

Man must begin, know this, where Nature ends;
Nature and man can never be fast friends.
Fool, if thou canst not pass her, rest her slave!

[Matthew Arnold is said to have disliked the nineteenth century life he was born into... and in self-defence developed ideas of culture more fitting to the twentieth century. He was the son of Dr Arnold, the famous headmaster of Rugby (private) School and became simultaneously an Inspector of (state) Schools and Universities, Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, and a leading literary critic. He admired German culture, and Goethe particularly... Somewhat late in the day, i am only now getting to know and to like his writings.]

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