Image: A print from Ernst Haeckel’s 1905 Wanderbilder (Travel Pictures). Depicting a jungle scene on the Kelani River, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Nature is probably our greatest inspiration in life. We have always been moved by its colourful exuberance, honesty, and perseverance to simply be. At times when this incredible source of inspiration seems violated, hurt, or beaten by our thoughtlessness, it almost seems as if we are at the brink of losing an extraordinary treasure. But, then again, looking back at what we know about the history of our world, we remember that nature has always persisted and survived forces much greater than us humans; We remember that she is endless, ageless, and perpetual. But, us? We are fleeting, and standing on sands that crumble as we race and rage in our hopeless scramble to grab a little bit more.
This beautiful 1882 painting by Ernst Haeckel depicting a jungle scene on the Kelani River in Sri Lanka makes us appreciate the paradisiacal plenty of nature. These intense colours make an accurate portrayal of nature’s beautiful play between the extremes—sunlight and rain, heat and humidity—and how this makes fertile havens for all forms of life. With brilliant colours and fantastic forms bursting with the unfamiliar beauty of flora and fauna, it reminds us of nature’s enduring richness; it pushes us to question the allure of what we pursue so fervently while trampling everything along our way.
As Haeckel himself said, “Our mother Earth is a mere speck in the sunbeam in the illimitable universe, so the human is but a tiny grain of protoplasm in the perishable framework of organic nature. This clearly indicates the true place of humans in nature, but it dissipates the prevalent human illusion of supreme importance and the arrogance with which we set ourselves apart from the illimitable universe and exalts ourselves to the position of its most valuable element.”