Think of two harnessed water buffalos pointed in opposite directions. They are connected with a metal chain. They each give everything they have going forward. What do you think happens? ... Those water buffalos are our minds.
A reader posted the following response to an earlier discussion of mine. He said, "We can't turn back time, we need to adapt." But adaptation is many things. Sometimes when we adapt it's good for us - biologically and psychologically. And sometimes it's bad for us. I'd like to discuss different types of adaptation. This discussion forms part of the argument for smaller cities, fewer people, and bigger nature.
There's a marvelous body of ecstatic poems by the Indian poet Kabir from the 15th century. The translations by Robert Bly are especially beautiful. It's in that style that I'd like to continue my dialog about how wildness exists not just "out there" but through relation.
By destroying nature, we're destroying the wellsprings of our life. But some people argue that we can adapt to these changes. I think it's a pernicious argument, and wrong, but grounded in some truth. I'd like to explain what I see going on here.
We do the bidding of our jealousy and anger. We do the bidding of our hatred. We do the bidding as procreation thrives. There are as many ways to mask a slave as there are rooms in my Father's mansion. But what if the truth is this:
There's a mountain pool that you find hiking up the wild river. The water emerges into it from porous volcanic rock. The water flows from the cold country. It's too cold to plunge in. But you're in. You're in because your lover is nearby and you need to prove your manly-hood....
I know many of you don't want to hear this. I know many of you love zoos. You might take your children to zoos on a Sunday afternoon. The human-animal relationship is a beautiful and powerful one in human life. But would you take your children to gape at interesting-looking people in a jail?
I want to talk about what wildness is. I want to suggest that we need it deeply and intimately in our lives. It's part of our essential nature. It gives life meaning. Yet our interactions with the wild are becoming increasingly domesticated, and even perverted.
Imagine that you live in a town with access to a beautiful river, and have on many occasions meandered down river off trail over sharp rocks and small waterfalls to secluded spots of immense beauty. Imagine that other people want easier access to those secluded spots. They say, "you're elitist by limiting access." I think there is much to say in response. One thing is this: By increasing easy access to nature we deny our children - and our species - profound experiences (Biblical in kind) of interacting with nature.
I love trees. I like hugging them. I run high ridges. I walk along the ocean's edge. I love nature. We all do. How could it be otherwise? For tens and even hundreds of thousands of years, we as a species came of age through daily and intimate connection with the natural world. That propensity and need to connect - deeply and intimately - with nature is with us still.