Everywhere around us the wilderness seems to writhe under a cacophony of competing lives. “It’s a dog eat dog world out there.” – is sometimes served up as the pabulum explanation.
And yet .. . there is this common thread running through so many of the philosophical approaches to having “the good life.” That thread would tell us that rather than see the jousting for space, resources, reproduction, what we are failing to see is that there is an overarching order to the mess, that where Mother Nature is left alone, there is a fierce but balanced form of fulfillment and attrition, of thriving and of dying. It may not seem fair to the chick that gets eaten by a fox, or to the tree that burns in a forest fire, or to the fish that get trapped in a shallow pool after a rock slide, but there is no entity there to be judged, held to moral account – only a process that is older than the earth itself, and which can be known to continue to operate well beyond the bounds of our pitiable blip within the span of creation.
There are two questions that seem to burn hottest for me whenever this topic is touched on:
1. can we learn to disarm that perspective which says, “look at the crazy mess of things alive and killing each other in the wild”, and trade it for something which says, “look at this amazing wilderness with so much life and death, isn’t it wondrous and beautiful? I hope I can be participate meaningfully too”.
2. why do we persist in framing the human experience as if it were somehow outside of the “natural world”, as if we somehow are not captive to the very primordial order which brought the entire cosmos into being, the earth, the sun, the flowers and the bees, the fungus and the virus, the dog and the horse, and Mankind among them all.
I think that upon reflection it becomes clear that by beginning to unravel the second question, the perspective that normally narrates man’s experience in the first question – a perspective of a separate identity, fearing for its continued existence, would begin to give way to a more integrated world view.
Everywhere we look life is doing an intimate dance with death. Only in accepting that death do the experiences of a life begin to show their true importance (and conversely: begin to show just how unimportant they are).
We are all dying.
Hoorah! We aren’t all dead yet!