In a Tropical Rainforest

A Bank of Quaresma and Trumpet Trees, Brazil. Marianne North, Date: 1873.

This past weekend, I visited, for the first time, a tropical rainforest, one near San Salvador, Brazil. I had the absolute best of guides, a young Englishman, only twenty-three years old. His enthusiasm about nature was infectious. I was in the company of Mr. Charles Darwin; I was reading the second edition (1845) of his book, The Voyage of the Beagle.

My copy of the book, published in 1909, was included as volume xxix of the first edition of The Harvard Classics. Even now, one hundred and ten years after the printing of the text I’m reading, I had to cut several pages. What a pleasure for me to be able to do this in 2019! I cut the pages on Friday, before the beginning of the Sabbath. On the table where I was reading, to the left of Darwin was The New York Times Atlas of the World, and on the right, an English dictionary. I frequently referred to the atlas and the dictionary while reading.

Here are Darwin’s words.

Though he says that he “wandered by himself,” that’s not entirely true. I was with him all along, beside him, looking over his shoulder, and listening. I am looking forward to the rest of our voyage.

In one of his sermons, Meister Eckhart, the German theologian, philosopher, and mystic, who lived during the Middle Ages, says:

In the head of the soul, in the intellect, I am as close to a point located a thousand miles beyond the sea as I am to the place where I am presently standing.

Meister Eckhart, Sermon 2, trans. by Oliver Davies

While reading Darwin, I was as close to San Salvador, Brazil, as I was to the table where I was sitting. There is something magical about that. So it seems to me.

All the best!

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