Thursday, May 16, 2013

It is what it is, is it?

photo of male rose-breasted grosbeak
Welcome! Thanks for the visit. Have you ever thought about the fact that a male rose-breasted grosbeak doesn't have to look like this? The color pattern is similar to that of a downy or a hairy woodpecker: black and white and red. Somewhere along the evolutionary line, after birds evolved from dinosaurs(?), grosbeaks became grosbeaks. Now, we're learning that what we have come to believe is pristine wilderness, has been manipulated by our ancestors. Take a minute to skim True Nature, I'll wait. Now, if you skimmed to the end, let me try a different spin. Humans are part of nature. Humans and the rest of nature have been co-evolving since forever, or thereabouts. Nature has developed a fair amount of resilience to cope with humans ability to "screw things up" and, if I understand evolutionary theory at all, will find a way to knock us out of the picture if that's what's needed to keep the planet functioning. To the extent there's an element of truth in my hypothesis, I feel better. It reinforces my preference for a universe, or at least a world, based on emergent, self-organizing systems. It also seems to mean that our desire to attain or maintain some sort of stasis or end-state of balance with nature may be very misguided. One of my past heroes, Steward Brand, publisher of the Whole Earth Catalogue, once said something to the effect that "we have become as gods, we might as well get good at it." Now, I have just enough classical education in my background to be deeply troubled by what I see as a massive amount of hubris. I remember quite well the contrary quote "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad." (Euripides). All of this is going to make me go back and re-read Gary Snyder's The Practice of the Wild in an attempt to fit this new perspective into a framework I've been trying to incorporate into my life. Talk about someone moving my cheese! In many ways, Snyder seems to have anticipated this more recent perspective. He wrote "...we must consciously fully accept that this is where we live and grasp the fact that our descendants will be here for millennia to come. Then we must honor this land's great antiquity--its wildness--learn it--defend it--and work to hand it on to the children (of all beings) of the future with its biodiversity and health intact." Could this be another way of saying "the more things change, the more they remain the same?" What do you think? Thanks for listening. Rants, raves and reflections served daily at My Minnesota.