Do you crave a quiet weekend at the cabin with a view of the lake or the ocean?
Are you inspired by a mountainous panorama or a garden bursting with colorful flowers and butterflies?
Does a buck deer running through the woods rivet your attention?
Can a short walk outdoors make you feel a lot better?
Is your dog or cat part of your family?
Are you happy that the house plant you’ve tended for years is doing so well?
Then yes, you are a biophiliac.
Erich Fromm (1900-1980), a German social psychologist, originally said biophilia is the “passionate love of life and of all that is alive…whether in a person, a plant, an idea, or a social group.” E. O. Wilson (1929-1921), Pellegrino University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University, claimed that “our natural affinity for life―biophilia―is the very essence of our humanity and binds us to all other living species.”
Biophilia is the recognition that you are part of the natural world.
Your ancestors, for hundreds of generations, lived in and depended on the fields and forests. In exchange, they were imprinted with an appreciation of the hazards, bounty, and beauty in wild, spontaneous nature. Sure, they had to struggle through some of nature’s challenges, but afterwards they were rejuvenated by a warm breeze on a summer’s night, a conversation at the campfire, or a cool dip in the lake.
That imprint, passed down from the ancestors, has not diminished. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize in the bustle of modern times, but given an opportunity, the feelings are still there.
Artists, photographers, musicians, all strive to capture the “essence” of nature because it is so appealing. Architects incorporate living plants and bright skylit rooms to make their urban structures feel warm, spacious, airy, and inviting, more like the outdoors. Subconsciously, they acknowledge that most of us are biophiliacs, even if we don’t realize it. When the right nature button is pushed, we get warm and relaxed.
For many, biophilia is the reason we live in the UP.
We want to be closer to nature than to Detroit or Traverse City. We want to meander along a river that runs clear and cold, home to wily brook trout. We don’t want to see human trash or fences. If we lived down south, we couldn’t talk about how we are so tired of winter but love how the trees look after a snowstorm. Biophilia makes us endure the cold so that we can see those lacy white trees once again.
Birds come in a dazzling array of colors, yet none of the colors ever clash. All birds’ colors go together. Is it because the birds are just snappy fashion-smart feather-dressers? Or is it because our sense of color and what goes with it is based on what humans have experienced in nature for thousands of years? Biophilia likely shapes our sense of color, beauty, and art.
That sense of beauty even extends to our preferences in partners. When we say someone is beautiful or handsome, is it because we are drawn to a certain brand of makeup or shirt, or are we drawn to the person beneath all that dressing? Our ancestors evolved this crazy habit of choosing partners that they found attractive and passed that imprint on to us. Biophilia shapes our preferences.
You might discount this ancient influence and think your modern choices are beyond primal inheritance. You might think it is all just a nostalgic excuse for common and conventional thought. But it’s not. It’s art. It’s beauty. It’s natural. You’re a biophiliac.
Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.
Excerpted from the Summer 2022 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2022, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.