In order to regenerate and restore our social or financial structures, we need to take instruction from the healing virtues of nature. But how? By first finding stillness and inspiration within ourselves perhaps.
The following article addressed this and was published by Willem Vreeswijk's NEW FINANCIAL FORUM
Visit Willem's website at: www.newfinancialforum.nl
original article visible at https://www.newfinancialforum.nl/bestanden/Alan_McSmith-purpose_in_praktijk.pdf
Photo credit: Kendal Quicke
NATURE & 2021
Okavango Delta, Botswana. Even the trees seem wilder here. The moon is high and we all opt for a glass of wine at the fire. There is no better place to celebrate the day’s meaningful encounters so I pull the canvas chairs closer, and stoking the flames with some small pieces of leadwood, the warm glow of the embers creates a cozy translucent cocoon around the campfire and forest behind us. Even the giant fig trees, towering over the tented lounge and the mercury moonlit floodplain beyond, seem to be leaning in and listening. It’s a beautiful scene, and peering into the flames we sit in a mellow, comfortable and contented silence. Soon, the stories begin.
This is my office, or a part of it anyway. I’ve lived and worked as a wilderness and wildlife guide for over three decades, and the sights, smells, impressions and energy of wild Africa have settled so deep within that wilderness is no longer a place, its a way of life. And of all the impressions, and there are countless that can emerge, one seems to stand out: that there is something more to the experience than spellbinding outer landscapes. The beautiful panoramas and natural splendour are one thing, but there is a soul song here, a melody that awakens a profound dance of the inner landscapes too. In fact, I cannot be sure where my job ends and my personal space begins, or where the boundary of my office and my home actually is. Or if it even exists at all. My life is a declaration to share both, and to respectfully suggest that the human experience cries out for harmony with nature, and that our natural world should not be a thing apart, but a living comfort that feeds our souls.
This now more than ever before. Because is it not true to say that our world is currently being fundamentally transformed by both social and ecological forces that can no longer be ignored? The global pandemic we all face has realigned the fabrics of our societies in inconceivable ways and we are all personally and professionally navigating though a stormy sea of changing tides. I believe that it is during these traverses that a re-examination of how, who and why we are with ourselves, our society, and our environment will naturally occur.
For when uncertainty is the only constant, the human condition yearns for a simple solace: stillness. A safe harbour, a sense of calmness. Call it what you may, but this desire for stillness allows us an opportunity to download, to unwind. To create a little distance between the thoughts of our past and the projections of our future and to be more attentive to what is in the moment. It is in this redemptive space we can restore our own self, and from where original thoughts, deeds and energies consciously emerge.
Perhaps it fair to suggest that in this desire for stillness, we have gotten little lost along the way. We assume that accessories, possessions or arrangements in our lives would do it for us, that “stuff” around us would provide peace of mind. I am certainly not suggesting that we should not enjoy our successes or fruits of hard work whatsoever, but perhaps modern society as a whole could reflect on the balance between these two components: the desire to acquire wealth and accessories, versus the desire to be able to step back in the moment and acquire stillness.
For me, this is where nature comes in. The wilderness experience and regular quality time in nature, on her terms that is, slows our life down. It restores and awakens within us meaningful levels of awareness and perception. It slows everything down. By paying conscious attention to the environment around us we can be both humbled and inspired by the intricacies of life, those that are restorative in nature, awakening our potential to integrate more social and ecological responsibility in what we aspire to acquire.
But with the pace of modern society, we are swamped by information and stimulation around us. We may mistake this instant availability for comfort or solace, or perhaps efficiency. With little respite from omnipresent social media and the volumes of mass information that we absorb, perhaps we need to become more consciously aware of the effect this has on us. We invariably then live either in the past (memory), or the future (imagination). Nature can create some distance between what we think, and what we think we think. Stillness is not about what has happened in our past, or what could happen in the future. It's in the moment.
I’m not for one second suggesting you need to travel to Africa to experience this. Or do you need to drop out of society and become a recluse, or that these moments can only be confined to your leisure or holiday time. They are around us all day, every day: walking barefoot on a beach, chirping birds, the feel of sunshine on your face on a cold morning, sailing, listening to giggling kids, a forest trail, the scent of rain, or gazing into the eyes of your loved one. For a moment please pause from reading, close your eyes and think of a time when you were in such a space … how did it make you feel? Return to the campfire of your mind and spend some time there for a while …
Is this not the most primitive, normal, natural and regenerative instinct we have? The capacity to sink down into stillness and silence, the universal dialect of attention and becoming empowered with the ancient art of perception. To rethink life. To tune into the space around you, the requirements of others and your own life energies and priorities. Natural, self-inspired and inspiring leadership is about a quiet interpretation of these, and how to translate them into meaningful personal and professional encounters. But first, its about coming close to your own self as I don’t believe its possible to have a meaningful connection with others around you, without first having a meaningful connection with yourself. Transformation is first an internal process and only once you become more visible to yourself, can you become more visible to others. I believe that this process is so deeply rooted in our DNA it perhaps defines us as being human.
If this resonates with you then it could be said that the conservation of our natural world is not just about landscapes and resources. It is about this fundamental inspirational reconnection with our spiritual home, one that solitude and stillness provides. It is about a repaired connection with the basic laws of ecology that are pertinent to mankind on this planet: firstly, how perceptive am I when interacting with my own self, others and the natural world? And secondly, what is the level of positive impact that my thoughts, words and deeds regenerate?
Two years ago last month, legendary Namibian desert elephant Voortrekker, pioneer of the Damaraland desert elephant population was shot. He was killed as a trophy, under the guise of being a problem animal. Another casualty of that day was man’s inability to associate Voortrekker with sustainable tourism value, community benefit, ecological integrity or a sense of wonder. Instead he was killed for short term greed.
Some friends have asked me to re-post an article that I wrote a few days before the incident. Unfortunately it turned out to be prophetic. Here it is .....
Amidst an iconic and ever-changing desert landscape, legendary Namibian elephant bull Voortrekker has a story to tell. It goes something like this.
During the turbulent war years of southern Africa that preceded Namibian independence, the desert elephant population was virtually decimated. Some found refuge from the poacher’s guns deep within the remote and desolate gorges of Kaokoveld in the north. As a result, the Ugab and Huab River systems, the southernmost ephemeral waterways of Damaraland, were devoid of elephants for well over a decade.
Voortrekker, one of the bulls to trek north during the conflict years, returned home in the early 2000’s, commencing a relay of south-bound expeditions, penetrating deeper and deeper into the dry and uncertain landscape before commencing with an epic traverse through to the relative bounty of the Ugab River. It was a marathon across arid plains and ancient craters that would ultimately redefine what we know of elephant endurance, intuition and behaviour. Just how he navigated, or knew where to find water, is anyone’s guess.
But his legacy does not end there.
For over two successive summer seasons he returned north, returning each time to the Ugab with a small family unit in tow. An elephant patriarch. These elephants are still resident in the region and have formed the nucleus of three distinct breeding herds, making the Ugab/Huab Rivers perhaps the most viable desert elephant habitats in the world. Voortrekker continues as the Godfather, a true legend of the Ugab. His ancestral knowledge has been passed down to a new generation of desert dwellers. What a legacy!
For me, all of this addresses one of the most crucial fallacies of elephant conservation, trophy hunting, and the notion of sustainable consumption: that older bulls have no value to an elephant community and can be hunted under the banner of ecological benefit.
This is a fundamental calamity.
If Voortrekker’s right of way is conserved, then so too will a vast landscape of conservation, employment, education, financial viability , hope and possibility.
ELEGEND. He is actually showing us the way if we take a moment to realise it.
And is precisely why Voortrekker’s story needs to be told to a wider audience. I invite you to share widely. Elephant, generally, are considered as a keystone of an ecological circuit, but THIS elephant could be considered as a keystone of elephant consciousness.
READ MORE >>>>. https://www.alanmcsmith.com/blog/june-13th-20214530153
With the pace of modern society and the availability of information and stimulation around us, we allow ourselves to be swamped by social media triggers. We may mistake this instant availability of information for comfort or solace, or perhaps efficiency. Necessary data in order to keep pace with our society and up with the Jones's. We invariable then live either in the past (memory), or the future (imagination) and we bypass the opportunity for a sense of stillness which exists in appreciating the moment.
I believe that the greatest desire that drives or motivates a human being, and particularly within challenging times, is the desire for stillness. To be peaceful in the moment.
To create some distance between what we think, and what we think what we should think of.
This is what nature does, it can create restorative moments to sink down within. Stillness is not about what has happened in our past, or what could happen in the future. It's in the moment.
Doesn't our world need more of this?
After many long hours of training courses, interpretation safaris and motivational talks in support of elephant conservation, it’s all about the share ... to platform a higher degree of awareness.Not only for the sake of elephant conservation, but for the sake of the degradation of the human spirit that occurs without the influence of wilderness.
Empathetic encounters with wild elephant like this are incredibly rewarding. And therefore, humbling. The feed the source of commitment and empathy to all nature, the folk around us and our environment. This in turn inspires conservation ambassadors.
Covid and deep tensions in the world are forcing us to adapt in unprecedented ways. The compounded stress of Covid and global tensions are forcing us to adapt without tools or references, in unprecedented conditions. The very core of who we are and what motivates us is being questioned. Most of our creature comforts; those of finance, security, comfort, convenience are being compromised and threatened in various degrees. For me, this is another validation of what I call the human animal's greatest illusion: we have mistaken comfort for quality of life. There can surely be no greater urgency to relook how we are living with nature than the present hour.
The natural world has its own will, its own direction and force, one that no man despite all the technology, science, money and intellect in the world can stop. Mankind's disrespect of this fundamental law has led to the present day … I hear of so many people referring to ‘how to save the planet’ which I consider another great illusion; the planet does not need saving, it is us who does. What requires conserving is our unity of thought, of mass action based on the sanctity of common sense But it is now time to be this leadership, one that can only come from people who understand the value and implications of living respectfully with nature. That everything is inter-connected, how goes it with nature, goes it with us.
One from the archives, so apologies for the low quality photo. But it's an amusing story. Some time ago I had an idea to install a cooking pot on the engine block of my trusty 2F Toyota landcruiser; I had never heard of the idea before so it made a whole heap of sense at the time and be as original as possible. In those days we referred to our walking trails as 'MouldBreakers" so the novel idea certainly had merit. Enter one long and convoluted discussion with old friend Beano later, and the design was done. Presto. An airtight pressure pot was mounted on the hot water line from the engine block to the radiator, so hot water was diverted into the pot on its way to the radiator to get cooled.
The more we went on safari, the more skilled we got at hauling out an assortment of hot snacks for sundowners or coffee breaks. In fact, I could work out a pre-dinner snack of pre-cooked chicken and veg ... it would take a drive to the airport to collect the clients, a return to the camp, and half way through a game drive to be ready to serve!
Lots of fun in those days. I doubt if modern scifi game viewers (or their warranties) would handle this. Rolling back the years.
The human animal is the most advanced and intelligent species ever known. But we have been brought to our knees by a virus, which technically is not even a living organism. Why? Sentient interactions with elephant can provide us with answers.