Thursday, February 22, 2007

Who lost Paradise?

There are a few major themes I picked up from these chapters, the first being:

1. We can master the environment. Ruler of the terrestrial biomes and the oceans, the mountains and thier valleys, the forests and the plains. We have discovered how to master the environment, but it doesn't belong to us. We are a mere constituent of it.
2. We're just a visitor. Humans have lived on the earth for an eye-blink of the earth's existance, yet the history of the earth often begins with our creaion and for the longest time was though to only have existed for 6000 years. A part of Christian theology that may tie in is the idea that we are not of this world but only passing through, that in our essence we are part of God's world. I don't know how well I even understand this idea but I thought it fitting.
3. Pg. 89 - "The world was given to man to turn into paradise." WTF?!?!? We really have taken over this world, built up resorts and luxury and highways and homes, and this is our attempt at turning the world into a paradise? Personally, I find Paradise when all I have is enough food for the weekend and a pack on my back, and I am in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps surrounded by the Rockies in all their splendor, smelling the pine and listening to the river. Or in the deserty Chaparral dominant in the areas around CLU, and walking across campus in the rain admist complaints when it's a blessing; the rain gives life. Water. Life. If there is anything fundamentally wrong with humans it the attempt to change the world, because it's already a paradise.


Jonathan Pfeiffer said...

I agree with your third point. But the last sentence makes me uneasy. Where do we sleep at the end of the day? Usually we rest in an "artificial" shelter. If we sleep out in the middle of a tropical jungle (to take a remote example), we risk death or serious injury by not preparing some sort of makeshift shelter, which entails changing the environment, albeit in a small way. (Am I right, Scott?) Also, American public lands, which constitute so much of the "natural" beauty we enjoy, are protected by political institutions (which, I might add, can include even military forces). Are those institutions not "artificial"? Additionally, it may be true that "natural" paradise does not really exist anymore. It may be that humans have significantly changed the mountains, the pines, and the rivers, so that what we're really enjoying when we go backpacking is something humans helped to create (or spoil).

My comment so far, I think, speaks to *technical* properties of "Earthly nature" and "human artifact", while not addressing your *moral* claim about the wrongness of humanity and our power. Is it wrong for us to attempt to change the world? I interpret this question to mean: Is it wrong for us to cause some sort of reorganization of matter and energy? I think I can be bold enough to say that to *exist* in an embodied state--to breathe, to think, to walk--is itself to reorganize matter and energy. To not change the world would be to die. To not build shelters, and to not gather food and eat, would be to die. And, of course, the volitional act of refusing to survive is suicide.

Scott said...

I agree with Jon, but Jenn's words have something there...are we yearning for a romantic essence of nature, unraped by Man?? Well, this is actually a huge isssue...and I think involves something larger then acutally "changing" the world.
Why is it that Nature seems so beautiful? Why is that so many people are drawn to it.

Many humans are drawn to awe and mystery, and I will even throw in distruction. All to often we see nature as ONLY beautiful, but we forget that we we sleep in our nice little tents and only stay "in Nature" for a week at a time. If we were truly to "live" with Nature, things wouldn't always look so pretty, THEY WOULD BE DANGEROUS, AND LIFE-TREATENING!

I will go on to say that living in "Harmony" with Nature, don't just mean living outside of it and smiling at it, it mean living with all the SHIT it gives us, even if it kills us.

The point is that all to often we are concern ourselves with changing external things, i.e. the environment, our friends, our lovers, society, jobs, etc.

The problem with this mode of living is INHERENTLY problematic...when will we see ourselves as chang-ing or chang-ed rather then just the chang-er??....In the fight against Nature you will lose...In the journey With Nature you will win...even if it means losing your life.

Jonathan Pfeiffer said...

Nice point, Scott. How do we distinguish the "self" apart from everything else? When change occurs in the world--whether it be an action potential in my brain, an electric shock through my finger, or a frighteningly close lightning bolt--by whom, by what, to whom, and to what does the change occur? How does agency arise? Where is the subject, and where is the object?

(At this point I should probably apologize. I'm rather baffled, and my questions may be shedding more heat than light.)

Do we have any literature experts hereabouts? I seem to remember from high school English that mastery of nature versus subjection to it is (thought to be) a key theme in the history of American literature.

Jenn said...

Well, Jon, the first that I would say to your discomfort is that somehow the Leavers, and the many species of Homo that came before us seemed to be just fine out there in the jungle with a minimal shelter. I think that you learn to live with the earth and accept the dangers of the jungle as part of your life. Just like the lion will hunt the gazelle things will hunt us and we will hunt them. It's all a part of the natural cycle of life.

And Scott, I am a bit of a romantic, and I really don't think that every moment in nature should be considered dangerous and life threatening. They might be now but were they always that way? And do we view them that way simple becuase we view it as atrocious and inhumane, though it's merely a part of the natural cycle of life?

Scott said...

What I meant is that being in "harmony" is that you have found a place in this world. I sometimes concider myself a "deep Romanist" in the sence that one has to constantly adapting to whatever comes at you...whatever that might be. This results in a Non-duality between nature and man. Where is the true distinction? The probablem with defining something as "Natural" is that we define nature as "not of man, or untouched by man" But aren't we created by Nature?? Don't we need it survive, and don't we effect it as well?

Jonathan Pfeiffer said...

Let me make sure I've got this right: If something is atrocious and inhumane, it's acceptable as long as it's "natural"?