Knowledge is, perhaps counter-intuitively, ambiguous. We know facts and science, but we also know emotions and intuition. Of late, we’ve seen scientific advances that are allowing us to quantize “knowledge” that has thus far rested firmly in the terrain of emotions and intuition. We’re finding facts behind the feelings.
The devils and delights of the details of science combine with lovely prose in Florence Williams’ The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. Williams uses her writer’s art to explore the science that underlies the universal appeal of the out-of-doors. Exploring the science behind our emotions in artistic prose proves to be a perfect combination. Moreover, there’s lots of fascinating work being done here and it is only the beginning.
Take, for example, the Japanese scientists and nature enthusiasts who are pioneering what they call forest bathing. It doesn’t involve disrobing;
“‘People come out from the city and literally shower in the greenery,” our guide, Kunio, explained to me. “This way, they are able to become relaxed.” To help us along, Kunio—a volunteer ranger—had us standing still on a hillside, facing the creek, with our arms at our sides. I glanced around. We looked like earthlings transfixed by the light of the mother ship. Weathered and jolly, Kunio told us to breathe in for a count of seven seconds, hold for five, release. :”Concentrate on your belly,” he said.”
Concentrate indeed! Rest assured that you’ll need no help following Williams’ survey of the current state of our “NDD,” what she calls the Nature Deficit Disorder. She knows the perfect proportions of facts and science to story and character. You will meet quite a few characters here, not the least of which is the author herself, a very genial guide through a landscape you will see with entirely fresh eyes. Even as she engages us with wildly weird scientists, their stories and the facts they unearth, Williams is craftily creating for readers a new inner landscape.
Perhaps the most important aspect of The Nature Fix is that it is not the last of its kind. You will know that surely as you read every word and rewrite your own vision of the world the science will get stronger and more specific. The power of this book then, is that even when the facts become known, the feelings they underpin will be no-less certain. Nature makes us feel good and gives us strength, ultimately because we are natural. It might take us a bit longer to prove that scientifically. Until then, having a delightfully well-written book to remind us of the fact is a perfect example of the very human ability for intelligent design.
Not surprisingly, in our conversation about the book, Florence Williams gave it the human touch. We talked about her inspirations for the book (moving from Denver to DC), and many of the wonderful experiences she had in her journey writing it. Here’s a link to our conversation, or you can listen below, even, especially at work. You can authentically call this your health care check-up even as you listen to the interview below.