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

In some ways, it is exactly that :grin:

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His rock-flip look at ‘quality’ has stuck with me for, what? Fifty years?


Beer can shims (washers?) vs Brand name ones. Function over form. Yes in some ways it is about motorcycle repair! But since this is about insights about what we do on iNat, much the same way as he learned how to listen to and assess his motorcycle, to tinker with it, prevent problems through maintenance, we learn to listen to and assess the natural world around us. To get a feel for what’s going on, and when things feel out of whack. It’s the same principle, concept, applied in a different way. The routine maintenance is harder to do, though!


For me, the process of “closely observing” locally has led to a much greater awareness of how my actions affect the organisms around me. I find things like gas/electric powered weedwhackers to be very violent now that I have closely observed small areas of life in my yard.


I should clarify. To me it’s about repair of the psyche (as a vehicle for our existence), rather than literal motorcycles. :grinning:

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Yes, to me as well. The Buddha may reside comfortably in the engine of a motorcycle, but is more apparent in the non-human world! It’s a concept, a metaphor. And to my mind, a very useful one, applicable to our activities on iNat.

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Welcome to the Forum! I completely agree with you, although for the sake of social happiness and my spouses wishes, I am compelled to use such instruments occasionally.


A lot of interesting question posed here, I’ll try to answer them in an order that is most cohesive. Also, all of the responses were very interesting to read about people’s perspectives, and I think I have another book to add to my queue. My response will be limited to the original post. I love thinking deeply about things like this and also dabble in/contemplate philosophy so this is a fun one for me.

That is an interesting question as, would observations of nature changing one’s thoughts not be part of the experience of being a naturalist? I think it may all be connected. If one observes a colony of ants, and then observes a city from 40,000 feet and thinks we are not so different from ants, is it not still of the experience of being a naturalist because our experiences are shaping our outlook?

I moreso have moments of awe and wonder, appreciation, enjoyment. I feel I can really appreciate the (subjective statement) beauty that is happening all around us. I can go to the docks at night and not just see a pier, water, and stars, but various fish species, shrimp, crabs, bigger fish eating the former, and many other things. Out of the ordinary things are fun too, but I really appreciate the beauty of nature just doing its thing. And honestly, there’s at least a little of that almost anywhere.

Unfortunately no, with naturalist-type folks I do feel we can connect and relate with these experiences, but I spend the vast majority of my time doing things like this or thinking about it, and that sort of alienates me from talking with others that don’t share the same affinity. Even with my family I can explain what I do, but they really don’t appreciate it, and typically only pique their interest when using the word ‘rare’. For some reason, no matter how little one knows or cares about something, it immediately becomes interesting when discussing something rare. I suppose I may be partly guilty of that myself.

I agree, the peace you can find in nature is immense. It is very easy to become distracted from many of the stresses of everyday life. I do agree that there is a lot to be gained if one decides to spend more time outdoors and open their eyes, so to speak. One thing to bear in mind is nature is not a pill. If used as such one may find themselves disappointed. It has been proven to relieve stress and calm but if you simply can’t let go of something it may not be a solution. Also, even if giving it a chance not everyone might be interested, and that’s OK. Just as I or you may not be interested in sports, everyone has things that excite them and things that don’t.

Much of this is in my first and second responses. As to why? Because nature is so cool. That’s my shortest answer. There’s so much I don’t know. There’s so much I haven’t seen. There’s so much I have seen, and would love to see again. From weather to rocks, to oceans, to life, it’s all happening with humans having very little to do with it. Towering mountains in the Sierras being painted with flowers in the spring, clouds of dust from the Sahara traveling over the Atlantic to cause dramatic sunsets in the Eastern United States, baby mantis shrimp so small they’re translucent, even birds taking a bath in a puddle, it all just happens, and is totally normal, with no human intervention.

And, like I say to myself when I go fishing and don’t catch anything, “it beats sitting on the couch” :wink:

Edit: Sorry @broacher I messed up the quote above my first answer which maybe was the most thought provoking. It’s fixed now so the answer probably makes more sense.


Well said! One of the messages of the book mentioned above is that unless you look past the ‘form’ (i.e. nature in general) and get into how things work, function, that’s when the magic happens. Merely looking at the non-human world will not ‘cure’ anyone. It’s the understanding, the appreciation, that makes it magical!


It occurred to me a few years ago that I could be much happier if I didn’t care about wildlife. If the focus of my life was a football team or music or beer, there would be highs and lows but nothing so crushing as when an oil tanker hits the rocks or I see a documentary about forest destruction. Of course, such a life would be rather pointless and shallow, but only from someone else’s perspective. I wouldn’t realise that.


If only all the…
and Seahawk

…supporters, were also supporters of their team namesakes, eh?


I suppose the UK equivalent would be Partick Thistle FC. The rugby clubs tend to go for animal names. I think there is one called Rhinos, though I don’t understand why they would name themselves after horseshoe bats.


I’ve had the same thoughts as you. I’ve seen the avid sports fan go through multiple stages of grief following a crucial loss by their beloved team. I suppose that’s something real (to them), but I find it rather ridiculous. (“There’s always next season!”) Permanently losing something that exists beyond our mundane human lives and that has deep complexity and history, like species and ecosystems, certainly feels a much bigger thing. I know it often isn’t, for most humans who are focused on their favorite human things, but there’s an actual difference in scale and impact, and there might not be a “next season”. For those who care about such things, that’s our burden.


I think there is nothing wrong with following sports - to a degree. With a sport, the winner and looser are decided both by talent and chance. It is always changing, never fixed.
However, I agree with your overall assessment. A sport, a game, is never a certain thing. I loosely follow a hockey team (Winnipeg Jets), but only loosely. I would like to see them win, but when they don’t it doesn’t wreck my day, or change my larger sense of Life. I don’t even go to games or even watch them on tv.
The non-human world is much more complex, and, in my opinion, should be followed as closely as sports are. Where are the dragonflies this year? Why are they so scarce? Why are some migrant birds so scarce this year? Etc. I find these questions more interesting, but people who are less experienced with the non-human world tend to ignore them.


I agree wholeheartedly. I think this was the way of various (probably most) cultures, prior to the invention of the internet, and the television before that, and the radio before that, and before that perhaps to some extent even theater and colosseums. And that’s not to imply it happened to humanity all at once. I’m sure there are still cultures out there that are very in tune with their surroundings, whereas I suspect many of us on the forums are from areas that are largely detached.

One has to wonder why, and admittedly I haven’t given it much thought but I would speculate that the aforementioned are all high stimulus low effort, and each development in entertainment technology has become higher/lower respectively.


One should be careful to not make it part of “I’m not like other girls” culture, all interests are fine and there’re enough tragedies in human world, to drive more people into liking nature we need to show it’s similar to something they already know. It’s ok to love something, I hope people here don’t find other people’s lives pointless or shallow because they have different interests in life.


To some extent we already are.

I have seen a supermarket completely sold out of every brand of pepperoni pizza, while still having an abundance of every brand of every other kind of pizza. Pepperoni is the borg’s favorite.

Tubs of yogurt, all the same size, all the same brand, all the same price. Vanilla completely sold out, all other flavors still present in abundance. The borg like vanilla.

You can tell when the borg are grilling out because suddenly the shelves become empty of hamburger buns. And drones see the empty bloc of shelves and ask store associates if there are any more in the back.

That could come across as really judgy and mean-spirited if human individuality is important to you. Or, it could just be an acknowledgement that human commonalities are as real as cat commonalities or koala commonalities. There is no negative judgement in saying that many cats will like the same things, or that many koalas will like the same things.

Yes, the awareness I have just described has given me a better understanding in both of these ways.

I’m not suggesting that I am unique in feeling this way, and JNStuart above has proved I’m not.

I support a football team. Grimsby Town had a successful season, winning promotion in the last game. I was elated for a couple of hours. It will be a disappointment when they next get relegated, but it won’t matter. Winning and losing is the very essence of sport. And I suppose you could argue that the natural world is all about winning and losing. But when I see rows of dead albatrosses with their guts full of plastic, that is in a completely different category.


I think from all the replies to the initial comment, that you make an excellent point. I’m not entirely sure we (iNat people?) choose to care about Nature so much as we end up caring about it more and more over time.

With respect to conventional(?) lifestyles like just being interested in one’s sports teams and satisfaction with beer, I think that says more about isolation from nature than anything else.

I with no proof, just speculation think that appreciation of nature comes, in part, comes from interacting with it. In large urban centers, like San Francisco, New York City, London, etc. it’s possible to live a lifetime without substantial interaction wih nature, making it harder to care about it.

Why bother if it doesn’t seem to affect you?

Also, I’m not trying to malign anyone who does enjoy sports teams or beer, these are socially very positive and valid activities.

Lastly I think the iNat forum helps a lot in bringing more awareness to nature than I would normally seek out on my own as a plant guy. Seeing people talk about birds and spiders puts them into focus, for example.


Just to be clear, I’m not maligning human interests like sports or other forms of entertainment. (Well, reality TV is an exception.). I enjoy them myself. It just seems there are far bigger things in the world that should warrant our greatest attention and concern.