I've been thinking about moss this evening. Moss covers much of my backyard and I love that it does. I think it's beautiful. I'm happy to now live in Portland, a city weighed down by a green blanket of the stuff. I'm thinking of moss because of a book review I recently read. I may be purchasing the book, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, out of interest in the subject and respect for the writing as sampled in the review. The author, a scientist named Mary Oliver, writes with a poetry that brings her subject to life. Her plants are not simply a matter of scientific inquiry, but they are a mystery of the cosmos worthy of the respect that a philosophical mind should bring to all subjects.
I, of course, felt a certain kinship with Oliver as I read her words, having just recently spoken about attentiveness myself. However, it was her obvious reverence for life that reminded me of the beauty uncovered through the Stoic view of the world. In particular, I recalled Marcus Aurelius speaking of the foaming mouth of a wild boar.
The Stoic eye can behold a wide-ranging beauty because it is unclouded by judgments that can muddy the view. The power of a lion stirs up admiration, even awe, but not fear. The process of decay, divorced from disgust, is understood as natural and perhaps, fascinating. The world is accepted by the philosophical mind and celebrated with reverence. Of course, Marcus Aurelius's connection to Nature was not just that of a natural philosopher. He understood Nature as a providential god. As for the moss scientist, I can't speak to her opinions. I can only say that there is nothing in the above passage by Marcus that is beyond the reach of the secular mind. I know I can often be caught up in the majesty of the natural world, awed by the events unfolding before me.
All this to say that I may be purchasing a new book soon. If I do, I expect it will end up on a shelf near to my philosophy books; as a reminder that as I seek to see the world clearly, I should expect to experience wonder at what I behold.