Ancient Wisdom and Modern Dysfunction

In the world today I am often faced with dual realities. I find myself divided. It is hard to understand where nature fits into the over all scheme of things. I live in a city and I feel emotions programmed into me by society, but I also have ancient emotions of stillness every time a take a walk in the wilderness and look around me. However confusing this duality is for me in my daily life, the poems by Mary Oliver and the movie Ghost Dog seem to be good example of how to combine nature and society.

Ghost Dog manages to become familiar with nature’s place by studying the Samurai book of Hagakure and living with a deep undying devotion to this practice. He is able to experience ancient wisdom and modern dysfunction. Through out the movie Ghost Dog is attentive to signs given by nature. His personality could be compared to passenger pigeons a bear or a stray dog. I believe this shows his connection to nature. Ghost Dog is a free spirit like the birds. We see this in his ability to move quickly and silently through the city in elegant cars, as a bird can fly free and with grace. He understands his connection to the birds and sees his fate foreshadowed in the death of them. He’s an endangered species like the bear and as untied down as a stray dog. Understanding the connection nature has in the larger world allows Ghost Dog to eliminate the notion of the independent self and face death having conquered his fear of nature as an unknown. His knowledge of nature and the cyclical patterns within alert him to the continuation of ideas and hope from one generation to the next. This is shown in the passage of the Samurai book from him unto the younger girl.

Mary Oliver also deals with the dual reality of the natural world and the man made. The poems allow the reader to view the world from eyes that look at nature. Poems such as, “The Notebook”, remind the reader how easy it is to overlook the beauty and power of nature, “On the shore I’m so busy scribbling and crossing out I almost miss seeing him paddle away through the wet, black forest…” Through reading her poems it is apparent that taking the time out to notice nature in every aspect of life is very rewarding. If we understand nature than we will fear it less and if we live life with less fear than it becomes much more enjoyable. I think her last poem, “ The Owl flies into and out if the Field” is a good example. The poem looks at death as a cycle not of darkness but of light. Again having the ability to see the greater picture of where nature fits into the whole allows the individual to relax.

I believe that Ghost Dog and the poems by Mary Oliver allow the viewer or reader to understand for a moment what it feels like to flow with the tide. I often think I have such a hard time because I try to swim against the current. Despite the benefits of going with nature there is something within me that wants to believe I can be separate from the world at large. However, I hope to become an individual who can understand my humanity and accept nature’s influence on me as a strength.

Oliver, M. (2014). Blue Horses: Poems. Penguin Press.

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