Thursday, 25 February 2021
A Vast Indifference
Sometimes the natural world tells us it doesn’t care. It offers a powerful, daunting yet fascinating impression of vast indifference. The open sea can do this if there are only a few people around. Or the huge bowl of a clear night sky, or a wide and lonely view of rolling hills where hardly anything stirs but a high buzzard circling silently over its hunting grounds.
Cities, towns shopping centres, offices, houses, pubs, cafes, busy streets. None of them create this effect, although there may be hints of it in the still silence of an ancient country church.
It’s a spiritual thing lying just beyond the easy assurance of familiar language, a reminder that one day we will be gone and the natural world doesn’t care and never did care. And maybe this is a good thing. It leaves open a reminder that we should pay attention to own cares and make sure they are at least worthy of the limited time we have.
In my experience this vast indifference can be found quite easily. Others may find it in different ways, but one or two of our walks offer huge views with hardly any people and often this is all it takes. It cannot be experienced indirectly though – certainly not through the media. Even thinking about the media in such a context seems to pollute something important, something we’ll never capture except personally.
Are there downsides to such an experience? Yes there are – the ceaseless wittering of political obsessives come across as infantile. That isn’t necessarily good because people who could do great harm have to be taken seriously. Sometimes it isn’t easy.