I was at a potluck of natural builders in Bandon, Oregon, when the community leader shared a slide show. Everyone gathered quietly but excitedly: Apparently his slide shows were really something. I was ever the skeptic.
He flipped through a variety of photos of the natural world – starting with extreme close-ups of leaves, seeds, snails, and slowly adding photos on a grander scale - trees, lakes, mountains, the ocean. “Do you notice,” he asked, “that nothing in nature is straight?”
I squirmed, giving my then-boyfriend the side eye, and saying (probably too loudly), “Straight lines are my favorite.”
It was true. A fresh pad of grid paper thrilled me, my books were always neatly stacked in height order, my furniture placed squarely in a room. A curve made me uncomfortable. Undoubtedly you can guess where this story is going. I got thrown curve after curve after curve. Weathering one after the other, I couldn’t get this man’s voice out of my head: “Nothing in nature is straight.”
In this Western society, we are told from the very beginning to follow a straight path. We’ve created societal patterns that keep every element of our life in neat boxes: we work at this time, we play at this time, in order to reach this, we do that.
Not only has this mindset been drilled into us for generations, now we also have to manage the boom of technological advancements. Each of us carries an electrical device in our pocket (and more often in our hand). This phone performs exactly what we want, whenever we want. It’s always the same, it always completes the task asked of it. This is the exact opposite of nature; it’s mechanical.
This combination - our social values and the prevalence technology - has made it easy to forget that we are just as much elements of nature as the trees and the sky around us. In actuality, and to our detriment, we have nearly removed ourselves from the equation.
Chinese medicine theory is based on five natural elements. Wood, though it may seem straight, is strong and unyielding, and does not hesitate to grow around something that is in its path. Water is never in the same place twice and takes a myriad of forms. Fire reacts to the oxygen around it, never duplicating itself, never existing in the same state. Wind is in constant motion, moving obstacles in its way. Earth is perpetually in a state of birth, death, and renewal.
Our bodies, our emotions, and our actions are all fluid. Embracing the power of these elements can provide an incredible release. Just remember - nothing in nature is straight - because it’s not meant to be.