Naturally Calm

Pods of bottlenose dolphins, schools of silvery fish changing direction in unison, swarms or blooms or smacks of jellyfish. NBC or YouTubeTV treated us to a brief, soothing, underwater video between newscasts last night, apparently in lieu of pharmaceutical commercials. My attention this morning drifted away from the serenity of last night’s video, focusing instead on the collective nouns assigned to groups of animals. If I can, I will redirect my attention back to the beautiful sights and sounds of those lovely sea creatures. The sight of the translucent bodies and tentacles of jellyfish, as they propel themselves through clear seawater, is mesmerizing. That is true, as well, of the gentle acrobatics of dolphins and the precision with which huge schools of tiny fish collectively decide—at exactly the same instant—to swerve or reverse direction or pause their movement. As impressive as a marching band on an athletic field may be, its collective movements are crude and imprecise in comparison to the magic visible in nature. Simultaneously complex in the extreme and starkly simple, the unified movements of groups of animals swimming or flying or running are stunning. When I allow my attention and my intense admiration to be completely captured by natural phenomena, I experience freedom from stress. Though the absence of anxiety is brief, the sensation is sufficient to renew my strength and replace tension with peace and relaxation. I think I should give myself a daily gift of 30 minutes of meditative seclusion—while, perhaps, watching a calming video like the one I watched last night. Though I talk about meditation, it is mostly just talk; calm, regular practice in lieu of inaction is what I need. Maybe I need to be coached for a while until I succeed in turning intent into habit.


The Australian Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) describes several drugs/ pharmaceuticals as empathogens, which “increase a person’s feeling of empathy and benevolence towards others, as well as feelings of being socially accepted and connected…and…can increase friendliness and playfulness, but can also cause mood swings, dehydration and depression.” It’s too bad that ecstasy and mephedrone and other “stand-in” empathogens are not better understood and more readily controllable (to ensure their negative effects on the body are eliminated or minimized). My fear of what such drugs might do—both short term and long term—to my body or mind has prevented me from ever trying them. It is unfortunate that (as far as I know) pharmaceutical experimentation with modification of those drugs generally is prohibited; if research on how to eliminate the negative effects of the drugs were actively encouraged, we might be able to medicate our way to an empathetic and truly benevolent society. The very idea, though, would be anathema to über-conservatives and adherents to religious fascism. And other groups, probably.


Rest is a means of recovery. Rejuvenation. I will accept that as one of many truths.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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