Nature and Society: Retreat to Personality

Simplicity means living without heaviness. Cultural and art historian Heike Derwans notes that it is overwhelmingly guided by “people who are moving away from the over-representation of social and media space” and retreat into the personal or the individual. Since minimalism characterizes an orientation towards nature and sustainability, it can also be described as a “cocoon” strategy. Psychologically, it does not lead people of contemporary culture to return to the basics of their personality, but as it was “outside”.

It’s about absorbing the “essence of life” and living in the present moment.

In the eighteenth century, Jean-Jacques Rousseau called for a “return to nature.” 100 years later, this was applied in America by Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), the son of a pencil maker. In his work Walden or Life in the Woods (1854), the poet, philosopher, surveyor and teacher described two years of simple and independent life in nature. Human wealth can be measured by things “that one can do without without losing one’s good spirits.” Regarding luxury and comfort, the wisest have always lived a simpler and poorer life than the poor: “No one was poorer than them […] Philosophers of external wealth, none of them are rich in internal wealth. Thoreau lived austerely in a small log cabin for two years, two months and two days, where he wanted to know whether life with nature was possible, and whether thought flowed more freely, if the weight of civilization was dispensed with. In the twentieth century, this social and political position was reflected in Mahatma Gandhi lifestyle and clothes.

Thoreau is being rediscovered, especially by the younger generation.

Sebastian Goure, born 1983, has studied philosophy, American studies, literature, and published Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Thoreau”, in which he describes the struggles between nature and society, but also crisis control and the feasibility of social and political commitment: “Humanity comes from a garden, but at some point the market has replaced the garden. Then people became greedy and discovered the strength of their elbows.” The focus is on two opposing personalities: one who believes in laws as a lawyer and politician and embodies order and reason, and the other who believes in freedom rather than laws and advocates feeling and “unbridled thinking”: more than a thousand kilometers away, on the East Coast, Thoreau tries to live as independently as possible.” He cares about his life, his health, and the health of his mind. Yes, he wants to create a healthy environment for his thinking.” When the IRS threw him in prison for one night, he wrote a critical essay on the duty of disobedience to the state, which was read by Abraham Lincoln and which Lincoln could not accept. He sets off to meet Thoreau. Although Sebastian Gore builds a literary imagination, yet also makes us aware of our separate reality: technology and nature, thought and action, reason and emotion.The original sources served as the starting point for the author—and when he had to make a decision, he preferred the literary solution to the correct historical one.

The topic continues today in the context of leadership and management—particularly in the debate over the unholy alliance between turbo capitalism, digitalization, the obsession with growth (sustainability) and the importance of gut feelings. “We must overcome the duality between nature and technology, and not only think in binary terms, not only in ones and zeros, but as in nature, allow and appreciate everything that falls between them,” says volume edited human resource expert and entrepreneur Werner Neumüller. Humans, who followed the natural rhythm of nature, are now often required to act like a computer engine. So all of the book’s contributors are critical of “pure minds” who exploit nature to express, elevate, or transcend themselves. “It is clear that nature originally developed the instinctive sense of very concrete intentions. It wanted people to be able to make correct decisions relatively quickly and even under unfavorable conditions. But this (survival) instinct rarely plays a role in most decision-making processes in companies,” wrote investor and startup expert Alexander Stoeckl, for whom intuition is something that can be learned when feeling and reason are in harmony.

All styles from fantasy and reality have one thing in common: they are committed to thinking holistically about the future again and making it worth living in, by reconciling people and nature. Meditation can also help you notice your own thoughts or “go out” for a while to give your inner voice space. Most people find silence in nature – but it is important to be really present and face it with good energy.

In-depth reading:

  • Henry David Thoreau as an Icon for Environmental Activists
  • Minimalism: Is the only thing outstanding today in letting go?
  • Hayek Derwans (Editor): Minimalism. reader. copy publisher. Bielefeld 2022.
  • Sebastian Goure: Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Thoreau. a novel. Marex Verlag, Wiesbaden 2021.
  • Thoreau, Henry David Walden, or Life in the Woods [1854]. Cologne 2009.
  • Henry David Thoreau. Jungle infantry and rebel. Frank Schaefer Biography. Suhrkamp, ​​Berlin 2017.
  • gut feeling in management. The role of intuition in business, society and sports. Edited by Alexandra Hildebrandt and Werner Neumüller. Springer Gabler Verlag 2021.

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