“…Nature is so uncomfortable. Grass is hard and dumpy and damp, and full of dreadful black insects. Why, even Morris’ poorest workman could make you a more comfortable seat than the whole of Nature can …
I don’t complain. If Nature had been comfortable, mankind would never have invented architecture, and I prefer houses to the open air. In a house we all feel of the proper proportions. Everything is subordinated to us, fashioned for our use and our pleasure. Egotism itself, which is so necessary to a proper sense of human dignity’ is entirely the result of indoor life. Out of doors one becomes abstract and impersonal. One’s individuality absolutely leaves one.
… Nature is so indifferent, so unappreciative. Whenever I am walking in the park here, I always feel that I am no more to her than the cattle that browse on the slope, or the burdock that blooms in the ditch.”
— Oscar Wilde, “The Decay of Lying”
“…Nature, red in tooth and claw,” wrote Tennyson. “Imagine to yourselves a being like Nature, boundlessly extravagant, boundlessly indifferent, without purpose or consideration, without pity or justice, at once fruitful and barren and uncertain …” raged Nietzsche. Nature is a harsh mistress, tis said … or that she is cruel, that that she’s just a b****. Either way, Nature does not care about you. She is indifferent, and indifference does not care if you are warm in the winter, dry at night, or fed amidst a famine.
And yet, we still do our best to personalize Her (them?), to find the caring in the indifference. To feel that we are a part greater than the sum, to give some importance to our smallness…as if Nature (by whatever names we call it) is ours, rather than the other way around. Somewhere along the line, we humans were gifted with amazing brains, amazing brains that can create physical sensations and tangible experiences, like clouds of cotton candy spun from a wee bit of sugar water. I admit (the scientist within), “gifted” is a poor word–it was a coin toss, a drunkard’s walk, that determined whether or not we humans got the big brain … but that is an entirely different conversation for another day.
With that big brain came symbolic thinking and an propensity for the overattribution of agency.
One one hand … I think that is awesome! Fabulous and wonderful things happen where our amazing brains meet with the *something* that is afoot in this universe. On the other hand…
We miss the everyday miracles.
“Humans! They lived in a world where the grass continued to be green and the sun rose every day and flowers regularly turned into fruit, and what impressed them? Weeping statues. And wine made out of water! A mere quantum-mechanistic tunnel effect, that’d happen anyway if you were prepared to wait zillions of years. As if the turning of sunlight into wine, by means of vines and grapes and time and enzymes, wasn’t a thousand times more impressive and happened all the time…”
What’s up with that?
” I am face to face with a power that baffles speech. I see no lineaments of personality, no human traits, but an energy upon whose currents solar systems are but bubbles. In the presence of it man and the race of man are less than motes in the air.”
— John Burroughs, The Light of Day (volume 11)
Is this too scary to face?
This essay was originally published at Pagan Devotionals.
Thalassa: I’m a (occasionally) doting wife, damn proud momma of two adorable children, veteran of the United States Navy, part-time steampunk hausfrau, a beach addict from middle America, Civil War reenactor and Victorian natural history aficionado, a canoeing fanatic, Unitarian Universalist and pantheistic Pagan,and a kitchen witch and devotee of various aquatic deities.