What do we want from life? Developing insights from being 'naturally curious'

What has becoming an avid natural observer given you in terms of insight into understanding, well… anything and everything in your life beyond the experience of being a naturalist?

Do you find yourself frequently gaining, ‘a-ha’ moments when studying an organism? Have you developed greater powers of empathy to the stories and lives of wild things that we’re privileged to observe and that this in turn, gives you a better understanding of yourself and your relations with other… humans?

Maybe I’m too new at this to inquire, but I find the whole process so engrossing, and after even a short time at this, it’s becoming harder and harder not to wonder why everyone isn’t doing this more. (If so many are looking for ‘mindfulness’, why are so many just jogging on through the very source of all that potential mindfulness?)

But perhaps I’m ‘reading into things’ too much? I don’t hear a lot of direct talk here about motivation and inspiration, but is that because for some it’s become more of an obsession or addiction than a journey? Or are those things all related?

Picasso’s famous quote, “Everything is a miracle. It is a miracle that one does not melt in one’s bath” comes to mind when I start to look at the world we live in. Maybe somehow, learning to ignore the miraculousness is part of the wonder and experience.

I mean, I still swat mosquitoes without much thought about what a miracle I am destroying in the process. But sometimes I’ve wonder about how Janism evolved, now I can almost bet it was started by a bunch of naturalists.

How about you? How has your perspective, thoughts and understanding shifted since becoming a naturalist? Why do you do it? Do you do it to escape? To compete? To learn? To understand?

To avoid having to deal with answering more dumb questions about why you do anything?

Is this really… just a hobby? What have you discovered about the journey-- beyond your lists?


I would say there’re talks like this on the forum as there’re many new or young naturalist here. Those are thoughts I would have in middle school, but it’s clear they’re related to your interest, like, cosmos is very complicated and mesmerising, but I don’t think about it 24/7, organic chemistry is the base of biology and the mathematics makes everything possible and understandable while it’s just a system and as we know now it doesn’t fit some realms of life, so those are questions you could think of forever.
I would antagonise idea of miracles as there’s nothing surprising in complexity of life, hearing so many times religious outtakes on that, it’s hard to hear it again and again, our universe is old and maybe our black holes are sucking it all in another one, but that is life and we need to realise it at one point, not ignore, but accept, as accept life and death and ending of our existence with it.
I don’t think there’re just hobbies, everything is a mirror of human’s personality, but yes I also wonder why life is not in a list of interests of so many people, we tend to focus on human-related areas, trying to understand ourselves, while this shouldn’t be a constant priority as humans aren’t going anywhere, but things around them do, they change, evolve, die out, live in a way we won’t, and they’re everywhere, but it’s also known that for last centuries society for different reasons became more and more detached from natural environment, maybe it’s harder to make a notice of something that is seen lesser than you?


Well, for some of us it’s not just a hobby as we are paid to be biologists. Can your career also be your hobby? In my case, they pretty much overlap. My interest in nature, and biology specifically, goes back as far as I can remember so I guess I was destined to do that and nothing else.


Nothing so profound or spiritual… but I definitely have more empathy and feel worse when my cats get to any house spiders before I do…

I’m also a bit more weary/hesitant to forage in nature, mostly because if I take something for want, why is that any more right than leaving it for any of the other organisms in that ecosystem?

That opens up the whole question about humans relationship to nature, which has historically been dominated by the western idea of nature as a means to human endeavors, another fun topic to discuss…


Humans are a product of nature, just like everything else. To paraphrase, nature from an ant perspective has historically been dominated by the ant idea of nature as a means to ant endeavours. Likewise badgers, coyotes, geckos… I don’t consider us exceptional in terms of our provenance nor the reason why we are here (biologically speaking I am with Dawkins.) In terms of impact over time, well, that’s a different matter.


That’s true… granted we have self awareness and the ability to choose how to relate to nature, meaning we don’t have to subscribe to the idea that an anthropocentric viewpoint is the final or best.

I’m probably reading into it a bit too much, but I think an extreme viewpoint from a Dawkian perspective is that might makes right, therefore, what humans do is right by default because we’re evolutionarily successful.

That extreme form (not saying that’s your view) is problematic to me because we (as a whole, not as individuals) are bad at addressing long-term problems like: climate change, inequality, etc. which are detrimental to long term survival.

I think it’s analagous to how yeast thrives in a sugary environment (beer/wine making) until it produces too much alcohol, killing the yeast.


I think there’s mostly just existential value in finding connection as a proxy for validation of being.

^Sounds like some deepak chopra gibberish, but it’s true, dangit.

Learning about things brings you closer to them. It’s a path towards that feeling of simultaneously being an individual and at one with all things. Learning about ecology and condensing that knowledge into systems allows one to include themselves and their own life history/narrative (which apparently happens through the use of archetypes) into that system.

Now, can this desire be generalized to all humans? Probably not, or if it can, only to varying degrees. I still think we’ll eventually become the borg though.


To clarify, I was referring to the perspective that ultimately organisms are merely vehicles for carrying and passing on genes.


Tautology :grinning:


Isn’t that the same thing as Metaverse?

Yiu have the same right aa any other creature, as long aa you don’t destroy habitat, there should be nithing stopping you as production of e.g. forest is much bigger than animals there can eat, make sure to not kill plants and anything else, don’t walk on lichens if possible, but don’t feel like you don’t belong, each species got in a current spot from another one.


For the record, I dislike the term spiritual because it’s so entangled with religion and supernaturalism. But I’ll use it here. Is being a naturalist a spiritual activity? At least one self-help guide I’ve seen suggests getting into nature is one component of becoming a spiritual person. So I guess that’s all of us. I suppose if an activity calms you, centers your thinking, makes you feel part of something larger than your puny self, even fosters empathy, it’s spiritual. Studying and experiencing nature does that for me, with no supernaturalism necessary.


Absolutely. I started using iNaturalist during the pandemic and it’s become an obsession to document every living thing in my suburban garden (stats in blog now out of date, but you get the point). In just two years, I’ve gone from “hey bee” to “can you believe what a tragedy new development is, destroying pristine desert habitat for spiders, native plants, and bees?” (In order, those locations are slated to become a solar farm, subdivision, and apartment complex.)

I really enjoy the other side of being ‘naturally curious’ - proselytizing. Whether that’s encouraging friends and strangers to improve their garden habitat or showing pictures and factoids of bees and moths to unsuspecting family, it’s fun to share and hopefully enhance their appreciation of nature.


Nah. The metaverse is contained within something (a server, etc.) so it’s part of the universe. Whereas the universe by definition is all that exists. It contains everything. The borg is just kind of a developmental stage, imo.

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I have found since joining iNaturalist that my interest and appreciation of nature has increased in breadth and depth.

I have always had an interest and passion for wildlife from as a little kid, though naturally this first applied to large mammals. In my teens it extended to birds.

Since joining iNaturalist, it has stimulated my interest in broader categories of life - plants, insects and to some extent fungi as well. Coinciding with this period is the growth in books written for the public that go in-depth on the ethology of specific types of organism - be it the evolutionary history of plants, the behaviour of mammals, the rich world of insects, and the interconnectivity of fungi. I love reading these books! (currently reading Super Fly by Jonathan Balcombe)

Looking at my observations, I can examine and appreciate at leisure the differences between the different types of myriad insect types, Proteaceae, mushrooms, and other organisms that I would not have had the knowledge or ability to understand before.

It has also led me to understand more about the interplay between invasive organisms, biocontrols, and the resilience of native organisms in the face of mankind’s impacts.


I do find that ‘nature’, non-human life, tends to reinforce my personal spiritual belief, that a creator exists in everything. I also believe that ritual, of any sort, gets in the way of that raw understanding. Even an Indigenous Sunrise Ceremony is, to me, a useless ceremony. I will not go into established, major Religions.

I also believe that one thing can mean many things. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance had a big influence on my outlook (come on, I’m not young!). One thing the writer talked about was that even in a binary system (computers) there is a third state - yes, no, and when the machine is switched off. Certainly for me iNat is a hobby, but it is also (I hope) a documentation of some of the overlooked life in my part of the woods, as well as being a somewhat spiritual activity as well as a fun and interesting one.
I don’t wish to impose my ideas on anyone, but I think it would be beneficial all round if Humans stopped being so destructive to the world around us. Which we seem to do, willfully or otherwise.


That is such a difficult question to answer as since I have no memory of not being an

I think most, if not all, of us start out as amateur naturalists. It is unfortunate that far too many unlearn that curiosity as they grow older.

Having said that there is one epiphany I’ve had lately that has stretched my imagination is that we have not, and probably cannot, separate ourselves from nature. Even if we restrict our definition of natural to the realms of botany and zoology the natural follows us. As deep as we’ve dug into the earth we’ve found extremophiles. As far as we’ve gone into space our microbiomes have come with us. We are not separate from nature. We are part of it.

Another way to look at it is that our efforts are expanding the biosphere. As we dig deeper and fly higher we stretch the biosphere. It comes with us.


I read the whole thread before replying.

One thing that has come about for me is increased awareness of human animality. Yes, we have higher faculties; but so much of what we do in the course of an ordinary day doesn’t require or use our higher faculties. I see a flock of starlings all bullying the one starling with albino wings, and I understand that human bullying is no different. I see my dog go on alert and bark at a traffic cone that wasn’t there the previous times we visited that park, and I understand that human fear reactions are no different.

If you get right down to it, this is what Young Earth Creationists are afraid of. Even Kent Hovind, a.k.a. “Dr Dino” admits that organisms can adapt to a given environment with mutations that would have been disabilities in other environments. He doesn’t seem to realize that this is, in fact, “The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.” While admitting this, he continues his diatribe against “evolution,” whatever he thinks that means. If you get a Young Earth Creationist to be honest with you, their real objection is that they don’t want to believe that they are descendants of apes. The idea of human animality is incompatible with their ideas of human beings as special beings made in God’s image.

In the original Bambi novel (not the Disney version), this was one of the themes. To the deer, man seemed almost like a creature apart from their world – perhaps a god or a demon. Only the old stag understood the truth: man is a mortal creature like them, and suffers as much as they. We are not as special as we like to imagine we are.


Marvellous book - it was a focal point during my PhD study of software quality.


Maybe add it to Book Recommendations topic?

Perhaps also point out that this book isn’t a vehicle repair manual?