1 February 2015

The chief thing

“Wonder?” said R F Langley...“Yes. Oh yes. it’s the chief thing, isn’t it? The thing I value. Joy, Wordsworth might have called it.” He goes on to paraphrase a section from Iris Murdoch’s The Sovereignty of Good. “You’re wrapped up in your own affairs, you’re screwed up by your own subjective feelings, and you know that you’re colouring the world with your own thoughts and resentments, and you see a kestrel outside the window, hovering and … ‘The world becomes all kestrel’ … it takes your selfishness away, removes your self. And that’s really what this wonder might be.” It’s a truism that the stories we tell about nature are stories about ourselves, but still those stories are full of singular moments out in the world, when wild things look at us and we look back, mute and astonished.
Helen Macdonald, who says:
It took me half a lifetime to understand that each encounter with the natural world pleats together all the things you’ve read and heard, and adds to them, making something more of the bird or leaf or landscape in front of you, so that the older you get the more meaningful these things become.

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