“There is a myth, sometimes widespread, that a person need only do inner work…that one is entirely responsible for one’s own problems; and that to cure oneself, one need only to change oneself…the fact is, a person is so formed by their surroundings, that their state of harmony depends entirely on their harmony with their surroundings.”
— Christopher Alexander
The circular logic of this quote is what appealed to me most upon reading it. The two components: one’s state of harmony and harmony with one’s surroundings are not mutually exclusive, rather they are tightly intertwined and in constant flux. What we choose to surround ourselves with undoubtedly plays into our state of harmony. By making simple adjustments to our state of harmony, we consequently affect our surroundings.
In 2013, I quit my job of 8+ years and decided to travel through Argentina for 12 months. After living in the insanely bustling locura* of Buenos Aires for four long months, I became acutely aware of the dissonance between my personal state of harmony and the rhythm of the enormous city. I was surrounded by things that made me feel claustrophobic, hurried, restless, and disconnected from nature. Large parks with beautiful, ancient, gnarled trees only helped so much. My Colorado native soul yearned for cool, fresh, thin air, the smell of pine trees and forest, and an increase in elevation; it was time to move on. San Carlos de Bariloche is a mountain town nestled in the foothills of the Andes, and it would be my home for the remainder of my travels. Everywhere I looked I was surrounded by magnificent views of the jagged snow covered peaks that run nearly the entire length of the border between Chile and Argentina. Almost immediately there was an alignment, a congruence between my state of harmony and harmony with my environment. The change I made was a drastic one, however necessary for my well-being and enjoyment of the whole experience.
Whether we’re in need of a simple ‘change of scenery’ or a total re-haul is up to each of us to decide. But I would encourage you to take a look at your state of harmony and that of your surroundings. How do the two interact for you? What kinds of changes are necessary to improve one or both in your life? How can you create more accordance with your environment?
— Anna Thexton
*Locura is the Spanish word for madness