Monday, July 17, 2017

Adventures In The Not So Great Outdoors

There’s something about doing yardwork that gets me thinking. Perhaps it is just my mind telling me I should get out of the sun and back to my writing. It’s just that nature in any degree is inspiring and as a writer I get so little of it.

I’m not a big fan of bugs, especially when they are inside my house. Oh sure, I do try to shoo them out the door if at all possible, but I’m not above smashing them when necessary. When they enter the house they become intruders, and thus they become my enemies.

But I don’t see why we need to be natural antagonists. Bugs have their role to play, and in the long run they are probably much healthier for the planet than we humans. Which is why once outside my home I suddenly feel as though I am the interloper in their domain. I was picking weeds from my driveway today and as I did so, I seemed to cause a great deal of commotion among the little creatures that lived within the cracks. A colony of ants was all in a flutter as I ripped a handful of green growing plants from over the top of their little ant colony, and I couldn’t help see things through their little ant eyes. I placed myself in their little ant shoes and saw the catastrophe as something comparable to an earthquake or tornado. Their little ant world was being turned topsy-turvy and I couldn’t help wondering how this would seem to them. This event might someday be described by grandmother and grandfather ant to their little ant grandchildren as something comparable to Pompeii, might be written about and discussed for ant millennia to come.

Perhaps I anthropomorphize their behavior a little too much. Bugs surely experience things differently than human beings, but on some level it must have been traumatic. Not the ants only but some smaller version of bugs I know only as rolly-pollies were evicted from their homes like old ladies living where Donald Trump wants to build a parking lot. It left me questioning what it means to be a homeowner.

See, the whole idea of homeownership is merely a convention created by humans. Nobody owns anything, we merely inhabit a piece of earth for a while. Like every other creature on God’s green Earth, we’re just passing through. We don’t own the earth, we are part of it. From it we are born and to it we will return. Along the way we share the ride with everyone and everything we encounter. But we’re not in charge and we don’t really own anything.

It’s just our tiny little egos don’t know that. Believing we are something, we then need to feel we are something more than that little thing we actually are. We are not simply our corporeal body, we are the domain we inhabit. The very earth outside our abode is an extension of us, each blade of grass an expression of who we are. They need to appear orderly, in the same way we need to have our hair combed neatly so the world knows we are sanitary and worthy of human interaction.

I think it stems from worrying about what other people think of us. We have such a deep feeling of insecurity that we spend more time worrying about the perceived opinions of our neighbors than we do thinking about why we do what we do. The second we start caring more about how our lawn looks to others than our relationship to the nature closest to us, we have surrendered our autonomy as individual agents. So while we stake a claim to a larger area of ground that we believe we are in control of, what we are actually doing is making our domain smaller. Our lawn is no longer ours since we cannot do with it as we will.

So we douse our lawns with chemicals, in the same way men in the 40’s greased their hair or women in the 80’s sprayed theirs into submission. It was not bad enough that we waged war on nature on a broad front, we now feel compelled to dominate it on a micro level as well. The actual health of our yards be damned, it was how it looked that was important.

The problem is that we still seem to feel we need to master nature, rather than live with it, be a part of it. We are nature fascists, determined to dominate rather than coexist. And dominance, after all, is a very natural tendency, in species other than just man. But it is a primitive notion, something perhaps suitable for chimpanzees and gorillas but not for a species capable of creating nuclear weapons and global warming. At some point, we as a species must learn a different way to view our relationship with the outside world if we want to continue to enjoy the privileged position we now have.

As man encroaches more and more upon the last unspoiled portions of the world, it is more than ever important that we regard the nature within our small realm of influence with respect and reverence. In these encounters with the smallest of God’s living creations, we must cultivate a true appreciation for life in all its forms. For all that we wish to feel superior and dominant, such an attitude does not in the end lead to satisfaction and happiness. It requires an initial feeling of insignificance on our part to let go of such notions, but in the end we are deeply awarded for doing so. For in the admission that we do not own anything, we discover that we are in fact part of everything. I cannot imagine any possession that could provide as much happiness as that revelation.

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