27 Jan Lessons on Observing the Imperfect Beauty of Human Nature
HUMAN NATURE CAN ACT AS A summer rain; we step into the light of day with not a cloud floating in the sky, but when we look up, we feel the rain and wonder how and why.
Life is good, we should feel happy — but we’re not. The rain falls and we can’t discern where from. That’s why it’s called human nature; it’s unpredictable like the forces of the natural world. Yet like the summer rain, our unexplainable human nature can be infinitely beautiful.
We contain so much within us, a unique history and an incandescent spirit, stores of emotions and feelings that blow irregularly like gale winds strong enough to shake our core and it feels as if mother earth is knocking at the door.
Yet every storm leads to a calm and sunny day with time. Each force of nature is essential. We want to see the sunny days without rain in ourselves and one another because that’s when we feel our best.
But it’s okay to have the stormy days when your spirit feels like a dark raincloud that won’t lift. It’s healthy to recognize the winds of change. Nature requires all the forces to work in chaotic harmony.
When we recognize that harmony at work in ourselves and in others, we can begin to understand what it means to live life without grasping for control and instead, letting go.
Studying human nature like the 19th-century playwright and short story writer Anton Chekhov can illuminate what it means to be a complicated yet beautiful soul in a human body, striving to make its way.
Anton Chekhov, the master of observation
Anton Chekhov was the master of observing and writing about human nature. He didn’t strive to depict the world as he wanted to see it, but as he thought it really was.
Human nature is imperfect,
he wrote in a letter to a friend in 1887.
Artistic literature is called so because it depicts life as it really is. Its aim is truth - unconditional and honest. To a chemist, nothing on earth is unclean. A writer must be as objective as a chemist.
As artists and human beings who desire to learn about ourselves, about others, and about the connections that bind us, observing how humans act can be our most fundamental source of inspiration.
I don’t write because I want to prove how good the world is. I write because I hope to capture the essence of what it means to be a human being, the good, the seemingly bad, and all that falls in between.
What we perceive as a negative experience is possibly what we need to appreciate how good life really is. Life rarely makes sense. But why would we want it to?
A world of sense is when what we expect to happen does. Sense means things happen how we want them to happen — but that’s rarely how life works. When we live our life based on expectations, we’re removed from this moment.
It’s in this moment where we discover what it means to be alive, where we can stop looking for something ahead and do nothing but observe and listen.
There’s a lesson to derive from every step of the journey; that’s the only sense in the world.
Making sense of an illogical world
It’s in the stormy days when I feel my spirit roar. I don’t know why the clouds have come, but I have to shout over the thunder so I can hear myself think.
When I have to fight to see through the pouring rain, I recognize who I am more clearly. When we’re tested, our true character shines.
I return to the pen and the blank page because when I feel a storm brewing in my soul, writing helps me navigate the darkening clouds. When the skies are blue and crispy, I long to capture that warmth.
And when the rain falls from my eyes, the page is there to catch them so I can dig deeper and ask why.
There’s value in it all, truth in every different season, for we can’t have one without giving way to the next, no matter how long we must endure. This is human nature; we contain the world within us.
We don’t have to understand everything and we never will. Yet, we can choose to believe that everything happens exactly as it’s meant to. We’re then able to use those lessons to continually move forward in our individual journey. Chekhov writes:
It is time for writers to admit that nothing in this world makes sense. If an artist decides to declare that he understands nothing of what he sees - this in itself constitutes a considerable clarity in the realm of thought, and a great step forward.
When I fell in love with writing and telling stories, it brought me to the present moment of discovery. How I went about my day changed. I stopped looking at my phone while waiting in line. My patience increased while running errands, as did my joy towards the world.
I began to see every experience not as mundane but as part of this fascinating tale we all live. Like any good story, there will be ups and downs, twists and turns. How we react to them determines who we become.
An interaction with a less than amicable person won’t get to me. Why may the billions of possible emotions that somebody is undergoing take away our joy?
I’d rather help the clouds open up in them than add to the storm.
I began to feel more empathy, compassion, and love for other humans irrespective of how they’ve treated me; we’re all just trying to navigate our inner changing seasons and make it to another sunny day. We will.
Lessons from the short-stories of Chekhov
In her wonderful book, Reading Like a Writer, Francine Prose writes about how she had to take the bus to a distant town to teach one of her classes. On the bus, she would read the short stories of Anton Chekhov.
By the time Chekhov died at the age of forty-four, he had written, in addition to his plays, approximately six hundred short stories,
His letters are filled with revealing and immensely useful reflections on writing in general and, in particular, on the writer's need for objectivity, the importance of seeing clearly, without judgment, certainly without prejudgement, the necessity that the writer be an unbiased observer.
Through reading the stories of Chekhov, Prose began to realize that no experience is positive or negative if it’s looked at with clear eyes and an open mind. It’s simply an experience, a part of life, a gift.
What she once thought of as the worst part of her week, waiting at the bus stop and traveling for hours, became something she looked forward to as her perception of the world changed.
That’s the thing about life. The circumstances that happen to us don’t know whether they are good or bad. They just happen, and it’s our human tendency to act in irrational ways.
We apply the judgment, we create the story, we decide to go deeper or settle with what we see on the surface. If we want to believe that everything happens for a reason and that each and every moment of discovery is a beautiful thing, then it is.