Tag Archive 'existence'

Jan 30 2012

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World Weary

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Thanks to my tech savvy wife, I now get my morning news from an electronic device. Now I can read newspapers from any point on the globe, and keep up with the latest developments everywhere. Talk about information overload! I have to limit myself to half an hour of browsing otherwise I’d be at it all day. There’s really no end to the images and words that are available. With a good internet connection, the world is indeed a small place.

Yeah, now I can read about local, national and international events until I am truly sick at heart. Better than sticking my head in the sand and ignoring it all, I suppose. All the same, I can’t help but wonder what good all this information does me.

Am I better off keeping up with the massacres in Africa, the latest court rulings on crumbling nuclear power plants, or the circus that we call the presidential primaries? How much more do I need to know about the lurid sex lives of the rich and powerful, or the horrific crimes committed by supposedly decent folk? I’m partial to scientific surveys, but the one I read tomorrow will contradict the one I read today. Is eating dark chocolate and drinking red wine good for me or not? I know how they taste. That’s all I can say for sure.

I am world weary. 99% of the so-called information I encounter during the course of a day is tainted with propaganda, and quite frankly, I am tired of sorting through it. I call myself a philosopher because I have an insatiable hunger for meaning, but such a desire is meaningless in the Age of Misinformation. Media buzz trumps reality. And the wider the gap grows between the average person and wild nature, the more this becomes true.

A day in the woods provides temporary relief, but a week or two off the grid only makes it harder to come back.  In the summer of ’92, I went into the Alaskan bush hoping to resolve this matter. I haven’t been the same since. I have directly experienced What-is and know, beyond any reasonable doubt, that it vanishes the moment I step out of a wild forest. So now I turn on an electronic device, searching for more information, substituting that for wisdom. Then I get dressed and go to work on a keyboard, either at home or elsewhere, wondering why I feel so empty inside.

I should be happy. I have my health, a great marriage, my literary work, family and friends, and so much more.  But I am weary in a way that Kierkegaard, Nietzsche or any other existentialist would understand all too well. The gap between the wild and the civilized is wide indeed. And the world we live in doesn’t make much sense.

 

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Jul 27 2009

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Nature and Irrationality

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From what I can tell, there are two prevailing approaches to nature these days: the holistic and the rationalistic.  Those who take the holistic approach perceive nature as a seamless whole, which holds itself in eternal balance – when undisturbed by humans that is.  Those who take the rationalistic approach assert that there is a logical explanation for everything in nature, even the allegedly erratic behavior of individual plants, animals and people.  This is the fundamental difference between East and West, between the philosophies of the Orient and those that arose from ancient Greece.  Or so we are told.  But I don’t buy it.

In the 21st Century, a third approach is emerging – one that fuses the holistic with the rationalistic, the East with the West, the right brain with the left.  In this approach, Mother Earth is respected even as science is embraced.  Taking this approach, reasonable men and women work as stewards, helping nature restore itself to its proper balance.  But I don’t buy this, either.

There is, of course, that old-time view of nature as a world “red in tooth and claw,” where strong prevail and weak perish, but aside from a handful of libertarian anarchists, I’ve never met anyone who truly believes this.  The problem with this approach is that civilization keeps getting in the way.  What room is there for civility in such a world, for law and order?

The way I see it, the wild has no place in any of these views.  And when I say “wild” here, I mean truly wild – wild in a way that no theologian, scientist, or philosopher could ever fully explain.  The wild as fundamental contradiction, as aberration of nature, as inherent absurdity.  I seem to be one of the few people who believe that wildness of this sort exists.

After several decades of rumination, I have reached the conclusion that nature is predicated by the irrational.  I don’t think there can be any serious discussion about nature without the thorny issue of wildness being addressed, first and foremost.  And yes, I suspect that wildness and irrationality are cut from the same cloth, that all deviations from the norm are, in fact, as much a part of nature as the norm itself.  In other words, nothing stands outside of nature.

So go ahead and call me a Pantheist.  I won’t deny it.  It would be irrational for me to do so.  Then again, it’s hard to say how I’ll react to any box drawn around me.  And this is precisely why wildness, human or otherwise, is so dangerous.

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May 08 2009

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The Green Unfurling

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After weeks of alternating rain and sunshine, the grass is a fuller, deeper green than it’s been in six months.  But that’s not what’s captured my attention lately.  Not really.  I am awestruck by the leaf-out all around me – in the bushes, in the trees, and across the forest floor.  It is so sudden and overwhelming that I find it difficult to think of anything else when my eyes fall upon it.  And yes, it feels sudden, even though I had all of April to anticipate it.  Nothing could have prepared me for this kind of green, even though I’ve seen it fifty times before.

Vernal green, Kelly green, the green of a living landscape long since dormant and springing to action.  Wizard of Oz green – a brown and gray world bursting into Technicolor vitality overnight, too green to be real.  I first noticed the green unfurling while running my dog a week or so ago.  A maple leaf no bigger than my thumb rolled out of its bud and yawned.  All I could do was stand there amazed by it.  But now I’ve gone beyond that even.  Now I’m completely overwhelmed.

What kind of world is this, anyway?  How can there be so much green where there was only bleached forest detritus, dark mud and naked branches only a few weeks ago?  I go about my daily affairs the best I can, but all this green distracts me.  I fight back the urge to cast off my clothes and dance through the lilies like some feral naturist drunk on life.  I make a list for the day, look at my watch and pretend that I have it all under control.  But this green unfurling is making mincemeat of my reasoning powers.

Every other day is built around a stint of woods wandering, however brief.  The rest of my life is just some kind of muddling through, a sleepwalk of sorts, full of numbers, ideas and other abstractions.  Head down I start my walks.  Five or ten minutes into them, I look up and see the luminescent green.  Then and only then am I fully aware of being alive.  And my first impression is always the same:  This remarkable world is too beautiful for me to run roughshod over it the way I do.  What was I thinking?

But enough blather already.  A cardinal calls me out even as I write this.  I’ve gotta go.  And maybe, just maybe, after I’ve seen enough songbirds and wildflowers amid the green, I’ll be able to get something constructive done today.  Not that it matters.  Life needs no excuse to exist.  In that regard, I am no exception to the rule.

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