Monday, October 19, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
As cool as he is, Thayer Walker is a prime example of this trend. He spent three weeks living on an uninhabited island, to see if he could survive. In the past, survival was much more tangible; it was a question of life or death. Now, survival has become to much a test of human strength, it poses the question: can we conquer nature. The intent is to overstep our boundaries so much into nature, to do things our of our sphere. This provides a stark contrast though. While usually humans try to civilize nature, extreme actions such as island survival are almost a way to return oneself to a primal state that can function void of resources and technology. Although an action such as that would be rather idealistic and even preferred, that is not the general case.
Usually, when Man oversteps his boundaries in Nature, Nature is harmed because of it. Take once again Thayer, this time his experience walking jaguars. Imagine that, the weak creatures that humans are have advanced so much technologically that we can, in a sense, domesticate the king of the jungle, the ultimate predator. What human wouldn't want to prove their power and dominance in the world hierarchy by taking a Jaguar for a walk. But what do the jaguars get from it? They lose whatever we gain. No longer are they at the top no longer are they free. Human society, an alternate reality to the 'real world' of nature, has turned the social order upside down, making the once-dominate jaguar just a mere pawn in the game of life. Another example is Mount Everest. The Himalayas, at such high altitude with such extreme weather conditions and terrain are no place for man. But our high-tech jackets, bottled oxygen and even domestication of yak take us to the top. And now, Everest is a dump, trash lies everywhere, often times obscured by snow. But nature is not forgiving, for many have lost their lives on the mountain and many will continue to.
What we should strive for, is an idealistic and peaceful coexistence. For humans to learn from nature about themselves as individuals and Man as a whole. The relationship should be about mutual growth, rather a competition of dominance. The problems lies in the progression of society. We love our cell phones, our email and especially our Facebooks. But how much of that is in a whole new world? All these advancements are completely outside the realm and scope of nature. The heart of human existence today is this, to live a fully-functioning life inside of our new reality and to rarely (for most people) step outside into the real world in order to build some character and self-assurance that yes, we can live in nature, if only for a time. But are we really better for setting up camp surrounded by hundreds of RV's, still within range of TV, internet and radically even the grocery store? Regardless of what happens, I think that nature will ultimately survive, and everyone will learn to value the real world it encompasses. That being said, there are natural laws to be followed and boundaries to followed. Nature is supremely dominant and as much as we try to be a sublime force, our destruction and abuse of nature holds terrible consequences.
Driving home from school the other day, I saw the fog coming over the hill from the Pacific Ocean. It looked positively serene and beautiful when juxtaposed with the bold and dashing orange sunset. A gray smog hung in the background as if to smirk and say, "just drive a few more miles, suckerpunch the ozone one more time, i dare you." The day that the sun no longer sets so strongly could be the day that humans have become the psuedosublime force. And I fear that it may come...
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Life and Death in Nature and Civilization
In Tom Sawyer, there is a clear distinction between the town and the nature that surrounds it; they are separate and distinct worlds. The town is a world of order, structure and human control. It is based on human values, morality and is governed by human interactions. Nature, on the other hand is beyond human control, and therefore looked upon as a wild place. This is because it does not have the same values and structure that human society does. There is also a distinction between Tom’s mentality (which appears in his friends at times) and that of the rest of the town. Nature is fascinating; full of life and freedom to Tom whereas for the rest of the town it is an unfortunate part of the world that has not yet conformed to keep up with society’s latest trends.
One thing that really struck me was the connection between life and death, and what was what in regards to the town and nature. The townspeople view the town as the hub of life, thriving with activities, church and chores. They also consider nature to be dangerous, with the power to take away life. This is demonstrated in two separate occasions, first when Tom and the Pirates go to the island and second when Tom and Becky are lost in the cave. These two cases once again bring up the difference in perspective. To Tom, the experiences (mostly) were an adventure, a taste of freedom. To the townspeople it was a verification of the need for security. But it seems to me, that in the case of the island, Tom finally got a chance to live. There is a certain dullness to his existence in the town and to really enjoy life he must make up games that go against the town’s values. In nature, he is constantly appreciative. As he lives in nature, there is a “delicious sense of repose and peace in the deep pervading calm and silence of the woods.” This glorification of nature is both beautiful and accurate. It suggests that nature brings to life the quiet and speculative actions of humans. What I see most in this quote however, is the argument that nature provides the most real experience in life, whereas the town is full of fake customs that distract from real life. The stalagmite in the cave, which cruelly prolonged Injun’s life and gave him a sick hopelessness, gives the final implication that nature is real life. The rock has been there for years, throughout countless human histories; and will continue to be there for many more. In addition, the rock has a purpose to help human life on its greater path.
In Walt Disney’s Bambi, nature is portrayed in a similar way. It is the sanctuary of life, in which love blossoms, friendship is strong and family is even stronger. Through these positive and caring relationships, life thrives in the completely natural environment of the forest. Clearly, nature is where real life is found. But there is a threat, and that is not sublime nature. It is man. The animals are used to sublime nature and know that it can be dealt with. Not man. Man comes in and ruins nature, and destroys lives and relationships. Like the town, man has an agenda to civilize nature and to control nature. This correlates to Man’s selfishness, in focusing on only their interests and not those of nature. But as Bambi, Tom Sawyer and even Flannery suggest, nature will prevail in the end and live through him history; recovering, responding and growing.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
At the moment, it seems that while the question may be relevant in the future, the perplexity of sublime vs. pastoral nature in Tom Sawyer is not a key point to focus on. That is however, only based on where I am in the book. It seems, that if nature were to take on a more sublime form, it would not have the same meaning to Tom, and he would not have the same connection to it. That is not to say, that he would find increased reverence for the town. As of now, the nature we have seen is all pastoral. But that is not the case if we examine nature through the lens of interactions with humans. I think that Injun Joe's murderous act could be seen as a manifestation of sublime nature in man. Injun Joe, the half Indian recluse with no values, commits an act that does not reflect the values of the town or the calm of pastoral nature. It is an act that is very divine, except that it came from man's own hands. But then again, the question is posed as to whether or not Injun Joe can be thought of as a real man. Because he is shunned from the town, and comes from a culture attributed to be wild and uncivilized, he may be more nature than man. If that is the case, he is a cruel manifestion of divine nature's will, unpredictability and most importantly, its unfairness.
I am high up in the air, far above the ground. I am in a tree, or rather, supported by two of them. These two trees are my anchors, my support, my lifelines. Yes, it is true that I am on belay, but that does not feel the same. The pull of the rope is merely physical, the pull of the trees is spiritual, beckoning me to climb further, to use them, to work with them. From eighty five feet up in the air, swaying gently to and fro, things look different. There is not a building to be seen. Distinct trails made for humans to walk on blend in with the rest of the ground. My friends are minuscule compared to the trees. They call my name with cheer and encouragement, but unlike the trees, their voices are not strong and resounding. it is quiet up here. Few voices reach, there are no machines or crashes and clangs of industry. i can hear my breath, feel my heart. it is a disturbance to the whisper of the wind, birds chirping, leaves rustling. Yet I am not an intruder, as the trees are welcoming. They invite me to marvel in their beauty. Stare in awe at the surrounding forest. I do, but only for a moment. Then, again I must go down and hit the ground.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
"It must be very peaceful, he thought, to lie and slumber and dream for ever and ever, with the wind whispering through the trees and caressing the grass and the flowers of the grave, and nothing to bother and grieve about ever any more...Ah, if only he could die temporarily!" Pg. 64
This area of nature to which Tom has escaped is very serene and ideal. The wind is personified to be a calming, peaceful presence. The wind is a factor that blends Tom with the grass and flowers as they are all three lying on the grave and they all three have the wind flirting through them. The relaxation with the wind, and the peacefulness of lying and slumbering strongly hints that Tom has fled to somewhere that is pastoral. The town, which is not nature, is not pastoral either, as the church has too much power and responsibility has too much priority. But unfortunately, life in the town constitutes for much of Tom's life, if it could be called living. Nature is a land of dreams while the town is a land of obligation, in the nature Tom can recite Robin Hood, while he is forced to memorize bible verses in the town. Since the town takes so much precedence, Tom declares that he wishes to "die temporarily." He says that as if death is a cure for life, but at the same time he recognizes the strength and value in living his life. Because of this, I think that the town and nature might be life and death. I am not sure which is which, but it ties into the idea that the town represents heaven. However, Tom, the rebel from society, finds heaven outside of the town, in the place of his true calling, nature.
Monday, September 7, 2009
It is necessity for men and women to coexist with nature in this world. While it is not necessity to write, it is valuable for men and women to place their thoughts on paper, as a means to actively reflect and to share. Seeing as nature plays such an influental role in the lives on men and women (although that influence loses its hold on the masses year by year) it is not surprising to read countless recollections of nature by men and women alike. I am tempted to say that it is because of nature itself that one chooses a certain light to portray the nature that surrounds them. But it is unlikely that the physical environment truly holds the power to influence a writer's portrait of nature. Instead, the writer's personality holds much more power of the words that transform nature into writing. I see this to be true straight off the bat from William Bradford. Bradford was a Pilgrim, one with very strong beliefs in Puritan values. To him, nature was wild, beastly, unsophisticated and primal. This is held true in The Scarlet Letter, where Bradford's descendests consider the forest to be the house of the devil. Regardless of the beauty that natures holds, the breathtaking vistas, the santicity of life, Bradford holds Cape Cod to be "a hideous and desolate wilderness," with nothing of value. While this is in part because of his experience with nature, it can be much more accounted with the fact that Bradford cannot convert the forest, he cannot civilize it. Henry Beston is as different as Bradford as two people can be, in respect to their interpretations of nature. On the Atlantic coast, Beston sees the same trees, the same ocean and the same views as Bradford. But his mindset and personality are completely different. While nature is a setback to Bradford, Beston moved into his cottage with the mindset that he can learn from nature. Politics aside, I was struck by Bestons claim that "creation is here and now," and I have to agree. Beston understands the the forces of nature are constant and permanent. Bradford was wrong in thinking that nature should be civilized. Beston is right in realizing that life should include reverence for nature. Sir Francis Bacon understood the same thing, 300 years earlier.
So few people it seems, really appreciate nature for what it is worth. Ronald Reagan, a man that could influence the greater part of United States and parts of the world saw nature as a resource. He thought that "a tree's a tree. How many more do you need to look at?" Most people would rather "stay at home with the TV and a case of beer" than spend time outside. There is almost a stigma against nature, and it seems to be because of power. Human conquests, whether against nature or other humans are always against power. Most people think that they are above nature, that they can destroy or domesticate it. Therefore, their personality shapes their thoughts and writings on nature because they have such a negative view on it. However, "a lawn is nature under totalitarian rule," that is to say, nature is meant to be free and in control, to be appreciated. Charles Bowden, who rants, almost incomprehensibly, submits himself to the higher power of nature as does Edward Abbey. Their personalities are gifted with understanding and their writing is influenced by this understanding and it allows them to cast nature in the light it deserves. The only necessity left is a common respect throughout the world, to recognize, respect and protect the nature that is today. If not, as Flannery suggests with his analysis of Earth's recovery from the asteroid, non-human life can alwasy spring back, nature will always win.