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Jottings contributor Jacquelyn Gatewood shares thoughts on a busy world, as first recognized by poet William Wordsworth in 1802.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon.

These words, the first four lines of "The World Is Too Much With Us," a sonnet written by William Wordsworth (1802), criticize the First Industrial Revolution's absorption in materialism which distances itself from nature. We know the world is too much with us when we hear the news reports of world conflicts, possible movements toward war, worry about nuclear proliferation, extreme weather events and mass shootings in our schools. How are we to escape the stress of all the bad news coming at us through our devices? If only people (especially the president) would stop tweeting for just one day!

I try to relax with yoga, tai chi, or taking a walk in the park. But just like those who can't keep their eyes away from a bad accident, I put down my book and take a peek at the news. What a mistake. Last month Bill Maher described his current position as "fetal." He then explained ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) as a way to provide a sense of well being and relief when surrounded by stress and overwhelming helplessness in a chaotic world. ASMR is triggered by things like whispering voices, paper tearing, brushing hair and soft tapping. Apparently there are streaming channels where we can listen and watch someone rub their fingers over silk or velvet, whisper into a microphone, or tap their fingernails against a water glass. Personally, I would rather see Facebook posts of cooing cuddly babies cavorting with puppies.

To relieve stress and promote healing, some practitioners in Portland are attending sound healing therapy, which originated in ancient Greece when Pythagoras uncovered the power of vibration to heal. Tibetan singing bowls, tuning forks, drumming and vocal toning are some examples of sound used to heal emotional and physical illness and restore harmony and balance.

Distracted by the news of the day, we have forsaken nature. Now the United Nations' first comprehensive report on biodiversity claims that species loss is accelerating to a rate tens or hundreds of times faster than in the past. Dangers of extinction threaten more than half a million species on land.

Conservation scientists gathered in Paris last month to issue the over 1000-page report. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services included more than 450 researchers who used 15,000 scientific and government reports approved by representatives of 109 nations to warn us that we are in trouble. Robert Watson, a former NASA and British scientist, told The Associated Press that "we are indeed threatening the potential food security, water security, human health and social fabric" of humanity.

The world that Wordsworth wrote is "too much with us," has harmed forests, grasslands and other areas by creating cities, farms and other developments. Three quarters of the earth's land, two thirds of its oceans and 85% of crucial wetlands have been severely altered or lost, making it harder for survival of species, according to the report. Habitat loss is happening worldwide. The report projects 15.5 million miles of new roads will be paved over nature between now and 2050.

The good news is that many of these effects can be prevented by changing the way we grow our food, produce energy, deal with climate change and dispose of waste. Action by governments, companies and people must start now, the report concludes.

So, as Wordsworth suggests, as we turn to nature to escape the world, we must listen and learn how to preserve this precious gift. We may not achieve peace and comfort soon, no matter how many ASMR methods we employ. Meanwhile, I think I will visit friend Esther's colorful lovebirds, and whisper to them as they frolic and sing.

Jacquelyn Gatewood is a member of the Jottings group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.


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