Lakeside Philosophy: Ripples & Reverberations

How one small, quiet lake had me swimming through the currents of philosophical thought

Michael Woronko
May 21 · 5 min read
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“A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.”

- Henry David Thoreau

Sitting at the shore of this completely secluded and seemingly lost lake, I dipped my sullied feet into the icy water, sapphired by the cloudless sky above.

The stinging cold water, still surely comprised of melted snow, eased the inflamed soles that carried me through the bare but muddy forest to this wonderful rock atop which I sat.

As I felt the cold meandering upwards through my legs, I noticed a small feather, smaller than a button, slowly cascade its way down and land in the water before me, effectuating the most minuscule ripple that I’ve likely ever seen.

I wondered for a moment as to where it came from, eventually settling myself upon the surface of a thought with no more an intense ripple: there are bits of matter out there that get carried miles through the air, on breezes and through updrafts, around pines and over mountain ridges. This particular bit of matter, wherever it came from, decided to land right in front of me, right in front of where I had been sitting, right as I dipped my tired feet into the lake and right as I sighed a sigh of exalted relief. I think that’s pretty cool.

Only minutes prior, I had accidentally scared away a mother goose from her well-concealed nest (to my awkward surprise) and became rather concerned upon the nearby spiraling of a hawk who may have taken notice. Not to be blamed for the imagined tragedy, I decided to stick around for a while and enjoy the South shore of this particularly small, off-the-map lake.

For it had only been a year ago that I had discovered it after a fine-toothed combing of the satellite imagery that (to both my fortune and dissatisfaction) unraveled the mysteries and flaunted the hidden treasures of a nearby national park. It didn’t feel fair and, truthfully, it shouldn’t be this easy. But such is the nature of our existence — it simply gets easier, more efficient, more favorable for our continued collective progression and expansion through time and space.

Last summer, I had swam across this very body of water to explore its Northern shore, eagerly stumbling head first into the realization that it too had been just as secluded and inaccessible as its constituent parts. While swimming, I observed a most peculiar phenomenon: that of a small white spider strutting along the surface of the water, smack dab in the middle of this lake.

Despite its size, the lake takes a solid half hour, at the least, to swim across. I can’t imagine how much longer it could take a spider to saunter its way to the other shore. I also couldn’t believe that no bird, nor fish, nor flying insect happened to come upon and eat this little guy, who himself seemed without a care in the world.

Could the same not be said for me? The idiot who gets himself lost in the woods only because he had an itch to explore something untouched? Who drowns because of a leg cramp or, maybe, because he tried to swat away the chance of an amphibious spider bite?

Then, and to this day, an ever-pervasive thought occurs to me: organisms, as we know them anyway, contain this innate thirst to explore. The curiosity — which drives our existence — teaches us, sustains us and motivates us. It can be considered the energy-cell behind our evolution.

This is one of a wide spectrum of natural tendencies that we share with nature, realizations that I’ve collected like souvenirs over the few years that I’ve been privileged enough to roam through the wilderness.

Coming upon otters playing taught me about how nature itself is playful; their startled discovery of me taught me how nature is also afraid of itself.

Coming upon the peak of a grueling mountain ridge taught me the nature of earned reward, and that some of the most beautiful and magnificent trees live a life of relative loneliness.

Coming upon the dancing tornadoes of glitter atop a frozen lake, sparkling in the permeating winter sun, taught me that even in the face of surrounding death, there’s life to be seen in the moving winds or heard in the swaying and creaking timbers.

Our existence is a fractal one, and almost every experience we have, or can have, is relatable to nature in some way — whether that nature is under a microscope, in the viewfinder of a telescope or in the pine-lined canopy of a secluded lake.

The seasons themselves have a lot to say.

In the adolescent Spring, and in the right conditions, one can see the vast amounts of pollen and debris and fibers of all kinds that float around through the sky — remnants of the explosion of life. One can smell this new life sprouting from the forest floor and the vibrant but clumsy energy that resonates from the melting snows.

In the prime of summer, the oppressive heat is almost as unbearable as the oppressive insect life as nature swells in its vivacity. The foliage is at its thickest, the animal life at its most able, the landscapes at their most fruitful.

In the fall, like the twilit years of our existence, things begin to slow and cool. Contemplation, rather than pure action, sets in as foliage takes on a more revered sense of awe and life is contrasted all the more by that which lays around the corner.

In the winter, survival and death dance a rather somber and long pirouette, as tiresome as it is beautiful before the cycle once again sets in motion to repeat itself.

These are but seasons in the wilderness, irrespective but symbolic of celestial precessions or humanity’s own phases and cycles of evolution — which themselves tell a more captivating story.

Our reality, in reality, is fractal.

How to Navigate the Multiverse — Part I: Time

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