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Love Life, and Live Life Closer to Nature

Love Life, and Live Life Closer to Nature

Quote: “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake” Bernard Shaw Topic: Love life, and live life closer to nature Inge (Chair): A reluctant hero Liezl: An epic journey Danielle: A choice between the life he left behind Elmiri: and the incredible new world he’s learned to call home. Inge: Ladies and gentleman welcome to Together: AVATAR Chair: This 2010 blockbuster by James Cameron has made a big impression on the four of us, and, may I assume, on all of you who have watched this 2 hour and 46 minute masterpiece.

Several decades in the dreaming and more than four years in the actual making, the movie is a song to the natural world. In the article “A new Eden, both cosmic and cinematic’, journalist Manohla Dargis reviewed this movie in the New York Times of 18 December 2009. She writes that Avatar was created to conquer hearts, minds, history books and box-office records. This proved correct as the movie earned $2. 012 billion US dollars around the world according to the website www. the-numbers. com. In short, the movie is set on a distant planet Pandora, home to the native Na’vi tribe.

The main character, Jake Sully, controls his Na’vi body and becomes a part, and towards the end, the leader of the tribe. They fight against a greedy corporation who wants to mine every scrap of the precious metal, unobtanium, from the planet, destroying everything that stands in its path. What captured our imagination in this movie, is how closely the Na’vi tribe is connected to nature, and how happy and healthy they are because of it. They even have something that looks like fiber optic cables in their plaits that they plug into plants and animals.

Now, dear audience, we realise that this is not entirely possible for us here on earth, but the idea of connecting with nature definitely has merit. Avatar is a celebration of life, and made us think of the following Bernard Shaw quote: “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake”. All we would like to add to Mr. Shaw’s quote is ”love life, and live life, closer to nature”. Liezl, Danielle, Elmiri and myself, Inge are going to convince you today, that reconnecting with nature is good for your body, head and heart.

It makes the journey of life, one to love. Liezl is the first to take the floor. She is adamant about how nature helps to keep you in shape. Secondly it’s Danielle’s turn. She says that reconnecting to nature is good for clearing your head and lastly we listen to Elmiri. Nature is beneficial for your heart. Thank you Liezl, we’re listening intently. Liezl: Human nature is just about the only nature some people experience. Ladies and gentleman, this quote by Abigail Charleson is a sad fact. I am of the opinion that it is because of too little nature, that we South Africans are in such bad shape.

On www. health24. com I read about a study conducted by consumer health giant, Glaxo-SmithKline. They found that South Africans rate 3rd in the world when it comes to obesity and two in every three South Africans have a weight problem. To make matters worse, 49% of people indicated that they do no exercise. SHOCKING. I practise netball everyday and cannot imagine a life where you sit all day long! I am adamant that a return to nature can benefit your health by keeping you in shape. It is a myth that doing exercise is like a torture session.

We watch programmes like The biggest Looser where the poor participants struggle to lift a dumbbell in a sweaty studio while they cry for mercy. Compare this to the image of Julie Andrews running up the hill in the opening scene of The sound of Music. In both people are exercising, but when The Hills are Alive, it looks so much easier. In the Runner’s World magazine of 21 January this year, Mike Finch writes that when you exercise in nature your body is alive and breathing while your mind is switched to neutral. In a confined space the mind is not able to escape and you concentrate on every movement.

The more time you spend outside your house in the company of some trees, or even just a patch of grass, the more likely you are to get your body moving and lose a few kilo’s in the process. In The Movie Avatar, Jake Sully also found exercise child’s play. With the Na’vi princess he had to spend hours in nature, jumping from giant leaves and climbing floating mountains. His Avatar body was in tip-top shape. I know we live in the city, and giant plants are rather hard to come by, but I’m sure you would agree that walking in a park, does not feel like exercise at all.

When I spend time in nature, going for a jog it calms me down. While I am keeping my body in shape, my mind is at peace and I am able to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. South Africa, it is time to get off the couch and into the sunlight. Spending time in nature is definitely good for your body. Inge: Thank you Liezl. When I spend time on a farm I feel like a child again. I somehow have bundles of energy and cannot help but to run through the fields. Outdoors, everything is simple and all my emotions are stimulated. I agree with Thomas Browne, Nature is the art of God.

We have just heard that spending time in the company of greenery, can give you a slim figure. Next we listen to Danielle. She is of the opinion that time spent in nature can clear your head. Danielle: On the website, www. selfgrowth. com, Dr John Rutherford writes an article, Nature: The old frontier. He states that in the past, humans and nature coexisted in a harmony that has been missing in present days. We relied on plants for our medicine, used the stars to navigate and tilled the land using animals to plant our crops.

These days, while nature is still present in our life, there is a certain disconnect for people. This is especially true for those of us who live in big cities like Pretoria. We have pills for our headaches, GPS units to navigate and we get our “crops” from the supermarket. Even though we have all these things to make our lives easier, the world suffers from stress. This is especially true for teenagers in South Africa. In the journal, Annals of general Psychiatry, vol4 of 2009, a study was published by psychologists of the University of Stellenbosch. They ound that 91% of the South African youth suffer from acute tension and stress. On another website, www. stressfocus. com in an article Adolescent stress – It can cause adverse effect in future, parents and schools are listed as the culprits. The article continues to say that stress can lead to health problems such as an inefficient immune system and depression. It is here where nature can play a role Inge. In his book Narrating our healing: Perspectives on working through trauma, CN van der Merwe writes that walking in nature lowers stress levels and promotes healing. I agree with him.

Before an exam or important test, I like to sit under a tree in our garden. I look up at the leaves and listen to them rustling in the wind. Without thinking about it, it instantly relaxes me. One of our favourite South African bands, is Die Heuwels Fantasties. We like the music and specifically the lyrics. In the song Klein Tambotieboom, they show the affection they have for nature and the calming effect time in the bush has on them. I loosely translated some of the lyrics: When darkness comes to fetch me, bury my heart on Klein Tambotie boom and scatter my ashes over the Bushveld horison.

You don’t need a creditcard to play in the backyard and peer into the distance over a cliff. I experienced the happiest moments of my life lying on my back while the wind sang my name… Ladies and gentleman, it is when we spend time in nature that we get away from the stressful hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. Inge: Jane Austen said: To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment. Danielle, when you mentioned peering over a cliff into the distance, it made me think about Jake riding his dragon through the Pandora sky.

Gives a new meaning to the phrase: Free as a bird. Our last orator ladies and gentleman, is Elmirie. She says that nature is good for your heart. Elmiri Inge, for me personally, connecting to nature is to look up at the stars and marvel at their existence. I know what Helen Keller meant when she said: To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug. When you spend time in nature you can be true to yourself, there’s no need to pretend. Ladies and gentleman, you’ve heard that reconnecting with nature is good for your body and relieves stress.

Now I would like to convince you that it is good for your figurative heart – your emotions. A series of studies posted on the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, on the website www. selfgrowth. com suggests that immersion in nature brings individuals closer to others, whereas human-made environments make people more interested in selfish ends. When you think about it, this makes sense. When you immerse yourself into nature, you get a feeling of being part of a community, of belonging to something “bigger”. In the movie we meet Jake Sully, a quiet quadriplegic who does not have many friends.

He is without purpose and drifts about, sad and lonely. When he spends time in the natural purple-flower beauty of the planet in his Avatar body, we see him opening up. He makes friends, becomes talkative even and is later driven by his desire to rid Pandora of greedy humans. This stresses the point made by the above mentioned studies. When you live close to nature you have the desire to share it with others. When you live in the concrete jungle your only desire is to put up another barbed-wire fence. Reconnecting with nature also triggers your emotions to care for the environment.

The Sticks and Stones wildlife training programme in Virginia America trains groups of people how to survive in the wilderness. On their website www. sticksandstonestraining. com Skeet Sutherland, one of the senior trainers puts it best when he says “Wilderness Awareness Skills save more than one life but whole communities. We help people feel at home with their habitat by giving them the skills to implement sustainable objectives. These objectives produce practical and reliable results that enhance biological diversity and ecological integrity. When people learn more about nature, they will be more open to conservation efforts. Although we don’t rely on nature like we once did, we still need it. Reconnecting is the key to happiness because we feel that we belong and because we have an urge to look after our environment without strained effort. Give me spongy grass under my feet and I am content. Inge: Ladies and gentleman. Our 15minutes are almost up. Just like the Na’vi, we would all be happy and fulfilled if we could plug into nature with our fiber optic plaits. Sadly, this fantasy belongs to James Cameron and his epic movie Avatar.

The best we could do is make a conscious effort to reconnect with nature on a physical, conscious and emotional level, and reap the benefits. Who would not love a life lived closely connected to nature? We would like to leave you with the words of John Muir Liezl: Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Danielle: Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. Elmirie: The winds will blow their own freshness into you, Inge: and the storms their energy, Together: while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.