Mission #12 on my 2013 adventure asks that I learn something from nature. For the American Transcendentalists, nature and the soul are the two great teachers of the human being. In my case, I think I’ve gotten most of my lessons from the soul, and not enough from nature. Is this because my soul has just been a better teacher than nature? Have the soul’s lessons been for me more compelling or attention grabbing? To some degree, my soul has been a more insistent teacher, at least those parts of the soul that like to “get all up in your grill” and exactly in that colloquial style. These parts bend us all out of shape, either visibly or invisibly, depending on our underlying disposition among other less enduring factors, of course. These parts we normally call feelings. The philosopher Georg Kuhlewind, however, calls these sorts of feelings “emotions,” because for him, there are two primary sorts of feelings and he likes to keep their differences foremost in mind. The sort I’m referring to he describes as self-feelings, as feelings or emotions that are automatic and self-centered. The other type he describes as cognitive feelings, as feelings (not “emotions”) that turn outward to sense the “inner” and “outer” world and other human beings. These feelings are form-free in that they can take on the form of what they feel, so to speak, or take on the form of what they are felt by as weird as that sounds. Self-feelings are definitely not form-free. My soul’s most memorable teachings have been with the blunt instrument of self-feeling. But I would be stuck in a situation of being eternally pummeled (corporal punishment is most definitely not against the rules in the soul) without any learning if the soul had not also offered a more expansive pedagogy. For along with the blunt instrument and its concomitant suffering have come more subtle lessons. If the former sorts of lessons are like pressure and coercion, the latter, like suction and invitation. These latter lessons inspire one to activity and cognitive feeling, to death — of a soul sort — and transformation. Today I realize with a bit more clarity that this second sort of lesson is the sort that nature offers me as well. In fact, it is in this manner that soul and nature teach together and remind me that “spirit” and “wind” used to be one word.
So what then have I learned from nature? It’s hard to say, but I think the lessons taught me by my soul are at least as attributable to nature in that spirit/wind non-dualistic way of the imagination. And because mission #12 calls for me to learn like a druid and not like an empiricist, I feel no qualms in learning in this way.