I think I have a tendency to make life a lot more complicated for myself than it actually is. I invent problems and conflicts where there are none, and I allow my perceptions to skew toward the disastrous or traumatic, while neglecting the reality that the universe, and specifically nature, is giving me all the information and patterns I need to be happy.
I decided this spring that I was going to retake both semesters of Organic Chemistry. I didn't actually fail either semester, but I felt like I was flailing about, mystified and befuddled, occasionally stumbling into correct answers with no inclination of how or why. I knew, in my heart of hearts, that it wasn't supposed to be that way, that nature is not so clumsy and inexplicably full of exceptions and outliers.
This summer has been the opposite (I should say inverse) of that frustrating and demoralizing experience. It turns out that when I get the rest of my life together and focus, chemistry is endlessly full of pleasure. Most of all I am finding, to my extraordinary delight, that at long last (and please forgive my probably excessive exuberance, but this really is an occasion for caps lock): I UNDERSTAND ORGANIC CHEMISTRY!!!
I mean, I get it, intuitively, predictably, intimately. Something in my brain clicked, and this fundamental truth started emerging: things act the way they do because they are what they are. I knew that, or I believed it at least, but that's really the simplicity that underpins the entire fabric of the universe and our existence in it.
At every level of nature, it's true. Everything paradoxical and strange about anatomy, biology, physics, and so on really does happen the way it does for a reason, and the more I piece these reasons together, the more fascinating and exhilarating the mysteries I uncover.
In that way, in the perfect elegance and order with which this bafflingly weird world is created and governed, comes absolutely exquisite beauty and intrigue. Nature breaks its own rules with astonishing cleverness, evolving and inventing new orders. When you look mathematically at the patterns that emerge from systems and events in nature (oh, by the way, I decided I'm also going to minor in math, and I have a lot more to say about it, in another post), it gets even more incredible, the major and minor variations on a theme and the dazzling, infinite possibilities created by one seemingly insignificant, binary decision.
To have the perceptual, cognitive, and emotional capacity to see, feel, and more than anything, understand what is going on in nature seems, to me, a gift that evidences truly magnificent benevolence in the universe.
I always say that I started painting because I was intensely in love with nature. I obsess over music because the smarter part of my brain is hopelessly enamored with math. I study art and science because they are the interface between humanity and the natural world, and I put my faith in beauty because it is how nature reminds us we're on the right track.
I keep taking photos of the same plants and flowers in my mom's garden or the same river that I was born on (literally, the hospital room faced the Navesink, and I am quite sure my mom walked me over to the window to make that body of water the first bit of nature I ever saw). Part of it is that whole "you never step in the same river twice" aspect of evolving personally, subtly changing the way I see the same things. But I think in truth, it's more of a compulsion. Something in my chest seizes, like an involuntary gasp, and my head floods with an ecstatic rush. My grandmother used to talk to plants and flowers, saying, "God look at you, you lovely thing." At face value, her words were truly spot-on, and I think she knew it.