His name is Max. That’s it, just Max. He owns a shirt, a ripped pair of jeans, and two shoes with the soles worn down to his heels. He has a house, three houses to be exact. One in the mangrove swamp, one in the savannah, and another in the hardwood forest. He built them all from scratch – wood from the forests and beaches and any protective plastic or roofing material that he could find lying around on the road in town. All the food he needs he either finds in the forests or buys from the market when he makes enough money selling his driftwood carvings. He uses native species of plants for insect repellent when the bugs get bad, for cleaning solutions when he needs a wash, or whenever he feels ill. He spends his days carving kayaks out of trees and clearing nature paths throughout the island for visitors. He shows visitors around the island with his kayaks, taking people to places rarely seen by visitors. He would politely ask for a small donation of money, although not necessary, for being the guide through the area. But most importantly, he loves seeing the wild animals. He watches them with the genuine awe and wonderment associated with seeing something amazing for the very first time.
Max is a hermit and he only takes from the land what he needs to live comfortably. He has a certain respect for nature, he is a simple man, and he is happy.
Spending time with Max and talking to him about animals, plants, and the environment made me wonder if there was a correlation between nature and happiness. And I believe there is. Nature is relaxing, mind-opening, and simply amazing to watch. I couldn’t help but feel this way when I was sitting in a kayak with Max in the middle of a lake, watching eagles fly above and dive down into the water to catch fish. He and I didn’t talk or look at each other. We were totally captivated by the power and presence of such amazing creatures doing what they always do. We were pretty happy on that kayak in the middle of the lake.
Nature has two purposes. The animals, the plants, and water, the dirt, they all provide us with tangible resources. And in today’s world, many people only see nature in this way, as an infinite source of energy and material stuff. But few others, specifically Max, see nature in a different way. They see nature as something that they are a part of, something that is finite, something that provides happiness and inner peace. This second purpose of nature is much more valuable, more valuable then all the gold and diamonds that can be mined, then all of lumber that can be cut, and all of the animals that can be killed for food. All of this stuff is finite. It will be gone one day. And you can’t put a price on the happiness and excitement that nature provides. That’s why nature needs to be protected – so that it is happy, so that we are happy.