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  • Writer's pictureAusten Hayes

Sense and Sensitivities

"Information is not knowledge."

~ Albert Einstein

Freud and Erickson wrote of life stages - focus and purpose changing with experience and maturation. The hoped-for, most successful outcomes supporting autonomy and acquisition in early life, moving towards giving back, acceptance and wisdom, as we age. Wisdom, perhaps felt as a 'common sense', a simplicity we grow to prefer, a return to the instincts known to us as children - able to embrace the self where we are, rather than where we should be.

I've been searching materials gathered and written by those long dedicated to studies in nature - environmentalists, conservationists, scientists and lay people alike. And, as I read, I see even more firmly my wish to move away from psychology as a primary emphasis - the persistent mental engagement in the "why" and "what" of human behaviour - life as discussion about life of less interest than that of life lived. Of course, whatever the area of study, the human experience will come to the fore, but discovery formed in the gentleness and humility found in nature, sincere, ego-less, brings a joy and safety and 'rightness', unlike the more cerebral effort of information gathering.

So far, what I'm finding in my search is more of the same - information - at least with contemporary writings. That is, outcomes collected in labs with results related less to the majesty and mystery of nature, and more of how time spent in a green setting will stimulate creativity, lower blood pressure, raise levels of happiness, calm the mind, lessen depression, improve immune function, deepen sleep, etc. Valuable for certain...affirming what we know - we feel better when we step outside.

Early man gathered an understanding of nature's gifts relying solely on the senses - the same 6, possibly more, that we have today. Does the way we know something influence experience? Does relying on 'results' and 'findings' make us more knowledgeable, but also more separate from what we study?

Over the years as a clinician, I've learned the more science applied to a client, the less personal the interaction...the less sensitive I am to the deepest needs of the person I'm sitting with.

Scientific study (we hope) prevents the clinician from going too far afield, falling back on personal biases and misguided assumptions about the human race. Still,...the best work comes once the practitioner is freed from the absolutes of facts - confident enough to be innocent, even uncertain, in the presence of someone in need of support. Not knowing can be the starting point for the truest, most sincere exploration for two beings joined in a common effort of discovery.

When we walk into the woods, it is uncertainty that awakens the senses; to hear, see, feel, smell, in early development, fully alive, curious, open to wonder and surprise.

We're told the Native American knew the land as themselves. We're also told we've lost the sharpness of our senses - now dependent on things learned sitting inside a classroom or staring at a screen. And with this dimming of the senses, there is the dimming of sensitivity to the human in nature.

I will continue reading all I find in the way of the science of the natural world...I feel obliged to do so. But, once that is done, the plan for this quest is to go the now preferred simplicity, an uncomplicated wisdom there to teach me how to sense.

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Austen Hayes
Austen Hayes
Aug 07, 2020

Thank you, kindly. I will!


Aug 06, 2020

Read the naturalists of the 19th century—Gilbert White, Richard Jefferies, W.H. Hudson, John Burroughs. You will find more of what you seek there.

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