February 8, 2007

Faction of Nature

I like how Couturier makes the reader imagine our greatest metropolis as a conglomeration of human anthills. Skyscrapers are anthills - pillars of cooperative human efficiency. New York City is a sea of scurrying creatures, human and roach alike. The biggest of cities are just the human take on adapting to nature. Couturier after all does explain how everything we use comes from nature and is therefore natural. We are nature and everything we use comes from nature, even burning fossil fuels and the machinery they power were forged by particularly intelligent animals advancing their world.

Natural though it may be, we have created a new world. Our natural camp has estranged us from the wilderness. The roaches and mice and pigeons of Courtier's piece have all adapted to whatever extension of nature we might construct, but most of us are not so thrilled about the integration. We have grown fat off nature and many scavengers have grown fat off of us, but we don't usually accept these creatures into our lives. Roaches are still disgusting. We know we are one with nature, but we still seem to be trying to pry ourselves away. Maybe we're too proud.

Here's an article about a documentary on rats in NYC. It is predicted that there is a rat for every person in the city.

February 1, 2007

Annie Dillard likes nature, but maybe not steer or water bugs

Dillard has a carefree writing style. It never really goes anywhere that you would expect. When reading it I felt absorbed as she described things in ways I’ve noticed, but never put real thought to. Her observational skills are astounding. She can focus on the smallest thing in the greatest detail and relate it to you in a very poetic way, but it’s like she has plucked the imagery out of your own head.

I was not able to discern if she feels humanity is just an estranged part of nature, or if we have some kind of right to rule over it. Is nature just our playground that we have "so startlingly been set down on", or is our equal companion in our journey through time. She speaks of the steers' many uses without a hind of remorse. She feels no connection to them or to the water bug and she can't enjoy the nature of night. When it comes to frogs or falling birds or illuminated sycamore however, she sees the “beauty and grace? that we should try to be there for. Do things have value if we don’t label them as useful or pleasurable? Were the crueler things in nature created “in jest? or do we need to look at every facet of nature to see a manifestation of the grand scheme? Dillard’s stance on these questions is not apparent to me when reading this excerpt.

Here's the Wikipedia page about giant water bugs.

January 25, 2007

Prompt #1: Why the Woods?

Henry David Thoreau took a trip to the woods to live as a natural human - not as one assimilated into a complex culture and society built from collective thought.

A human alone in the woods is an animal just like any other, they are a product of this earth. Human beings arrived on this planet as just another organism. Humans were just another part of nature and just as "deliberate". Their powerful brain: their interaction and their rise above instinct allowed them to create their own world. Eventually a consensus was reached and customs and rules became more extensive than those of nature. A line was drawn between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, a line becoming more restrictive throughout history.

Thoreau understood that the human essence is not found in what their minds have built, but in that which built them, where they came from - nature. Alone in the woods Thoreau could observe the grand scheme. The village was a faction, a deviant, from the natural world. The village was a representative of what humans have created. The woods were representative of earth’s much more ancient wisdom and a temple to the force that created the human race.

The power of the human brain is seen not only in our evolving doctrine of justice and values, or in our rapidly approaching domination of technology. The human brain is equally amazing because it allows people like Thoreau to re-examine our place on this planet and what that place means to our species.

Here's a link to the wikipedia page about the Gaia hypothesis. I had to read something about it in a political ideologies class because it related to environmentalism. Anyways, it was in the back of my head as I was writing this response. I'm sure Thoreau would've loved it.