By Cheri Stringer
Biophilia: “hypothetical human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of life in nature; a desire to commune with nature” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
German American psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, in his book, The Heart of Man, presented his ideas on opposing forces at work deep within the human psyche. One of these forces is biophilia. Yet, biophilia goes even deeper than its definition.
The elements of life and death are woven into nature, and the presence of nature on all levels possesses healing power. When I go on an adventure in the streams near me to fly fish or simply to walk in nature, I can experience all the life that exists in the water: the plethora of insects, fish, and fauna that live there. The bank of the river houses shrubs and ground cover. The animals around me range from foxes to frogs, owls to falcons. I am surrounded by life on a level I do not normally experience. This immersion into nature is healing.
In the terms of evolutionary biology, can we extract a piece of the “love of nature“ from the sites of past human existence? Probably not. However, the fact remains that our experience with nature in the past was more profound than it is today. In the past, humans were in that environment constantly, surrounded by pure natural life. We experienced the wonder and magnificence of the Milky Way and the stars nightly. We felt and had our senses overrun with the smells of nature, the fire, the woods, and the ocean. We were at the whim of the weather and its changes. We felt the cold and the warmth. We experienced the rain.
Written into our psyche is a connection to nature and a desire for its healing presence. For example, where did we grow up? My ancestors are from the Scottish highlands, and funnily enough, I prefer landscapes with rolling hills, lush beauty, and water. Having grown up in Colorado, I lean towards forests, such as the redwoods or the old growth forests of England. The presence of these magnificent living plants gives me a sense of oneness with the land. I cannot help but to desire the awe and beauty of the presence of something bigger than myself and my own little stresses and worries. Being in nature brings me to an essence of my humanness: a wholeness I cannot achieve without nature itself. I have explored the effects of nature and the concept of biophilia in my work because I aim to give other people this experience of wholeness and connectedness to something bigger than themselves.