I appropriated the great composer Béla Bartók’s title “Out of Doors” for a page devoted to ecology. I’m a composer, a pianist, a landscape architect, a “maker”— so my reverence and love for ecology stem as much from creativity and philosophy as they do from hard science. It is, perhaps, a less well-traveled path toward ecological awareness, but it is no less passionate or authentic.
Aristotle said “art imitates nature,” and many folks who are smarter than I am have questioned what he met by that for more than two-thousand years, but at risk of sounding simplistic, his meaning is clear enough to me. Humanity’s most noble “artistic” accomplishments are authentically divine. J. S. Bach’s “terrible” sublime counterpoint in The Art of Fugue comes to my mind immediately — and so does Albert Einstein’s breath-taking originality and galloping advances in physics — but they and all the others have antecedents in nature. I believe the genius and divinity of these titans, and all of those in their auspicious company, are more attributable to their ability to perceive, emulate, and channel the laws that govern nature than they are to some kind of mysterious, creative necromancy. (Of course, it doesn’t take much imagination to think of them as the same thing.)
In my view, there are simply no greater examples of inspired creativity than those found throughout nature, and there are no greater models for construction than nature’s endlessly wondrous processes, designs, and forms. As such, speaking for myself, “art” and “making” have far more to do with imitating nature — following “the voice of God” if you want or will — than they have to do with deliberate “self expression.”
Combined with my innate love for the natural world, this perspective has resulted in my quiet awe of ecology (and also my quiet awe of physics). I’m not an ecologist (and I was never smart enough to study physics), but I have keen interest in these disciplines and deep admiration for those who pursue them. It seems to me there are no pursuits that more literally manifest devotion to beauty and to the natural world.