“Life Happens in the Present Moment”

This is a quote from a recent article published in Scientific American as an opinion piece written by psychology researchers. It seemed to me to be a rather obvious point, but as I pondered the article, I realized — not for the first time — that the way I live my life is probably quite different from the way many Americans go about their days.

The authors of the article posit that, in addition to three agreed-upon factors that make existence subjectively meaningful to us (the feeling that our lives make sense, having clear and satisfying long-term goals, and believing that our lives matter), a fourth factor should be noted: they call it “experiential appreciation.”

Recently hatched Monarch caterpillar on Swamp Milkweed

The authors argue that those of us who routinely take moments to notice and appreciate the wonders around us have more meaning-filled lives. They have conducted studies to quantify this factor and demonstrate its validity. I suppose I commend their efforts, but, frankly, it makes me a bit sad to think experts were needed to identify a factor that most any gardener or lover of the natural world has always known.

Why else do we all snap photo after photo of the daily wonders we encounter? Why else do we become happily silly at the sight of newborn babies — human or otherwise?

Emerging leaves and flowers of American Beech

Personally, that deep sense of wonder, the excitement and awe I feel when I encounter beauty is the fuel that keeps me going. In fact, it is so important to me that I made this notion the subject of my post for Earth Day this year, in which I wrote about being perpetually gobsmacked by the natural world.

If these scientists succeed in helping others realize they need to slow down and literally “smell the roses,” then bully for them, I say. In fact, their article led me to one of their moments of “experiential appreciation” as I realized just how deeply fortunate I am to live every day immersed in my green world, and why I am moved to share my experiences via this blog, Twitter posts, and even my LinkedIn page. It is why I’ve taken on an apprentice to share my knowledge and teach her how to see the natural world the way I do.

If these researchers succeed in making even two people put down their smartphones and actually see the world around them, to immerse themselves in the beauty of the now, then I applaud them. You demonstrate it your way, gentlemen, and I’ll keep attempting to show them my way. Helping to deepen an individual’s appreciation of the beauty in life is always a worthy goal, and maybe, just maybe, it will motivate humanity to take better care of Mother Earth.

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