Aristotle on Nature
By Scott Edwards
We had eaten snake, squirrel and pack-rat stew for dinner the previous night. Watching Dave slither between submerged willow roots and the creek’s sandy bottom, I had high hopes that we would have something a little more mainstream, such as fish, for lunch. In my half-starved, conserve-energy state-of-mind, I let out a low-volume sigh of relief when he found a space to breathe between the flowing water and the overhanging bank. Dave was hand fishing while shivering in the shaded creek, and this provided us with most of the thousand or so calories per day that we had scraped together over the past week.
“Nature does nothing in vain”, Aristotle said, and Dave’s search for protein was as pure as it gets. As we had done before, we placed ourselves in a primitive walk-about situation to develop our skills and connect with the land. Dave is a pro; I have a long way to go, but I’m experienced enough to have a deep appreciation for the knowledge and gratitude required to thrive in Southern Utah’s canyons.
Aristotle believed that the highest aim is happiness, as it is the goal itself, not the means to another goal. He taught that happiness is tied with success and fulfillment and is treated as an “activity”, not a “state”. When I am in nature under primitive conditions, Aristotle’s criteria for happiness come to me in spades. The activities and results of working with another to satisfy basic needs feed the soul in a way that connects heart and mind with the greater good, the cosmos, our basic DNA.
It doesn’t take rodent stew and hand fishing to connect with and benefit from our natural world. As Aristotle said, “There is something marvelous in all things nature”. This observation and a plethora of quantitative research demonstrate how mind and body benefit from exposure to nature.
If happiness is your goal, then the following quote most likely applies: “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.”
– Edward Abbey.