Friday, June 24, 2016

Nature seen as apart from humanity

Osho said: "Whenever you are in love with flowing things, moving things, you have a different vision of life. Modern man lives with asphalt roads, cement and concrete buildings. These are nouns, remember, these are not verbs." Aldo Leopold noted: "There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot." And it seems that we humans are not among the things we characterize as wild.

Mircea Eliade, defining "hierophany" as "the act of manifestation of the sacred," wrote:

"The sacred tree, the sacred stone are not adored as stone or tree; they are worshipped precisely because they are hierophanies, because they show something that is no longer stone or tree but the sacred, the ganz andere [wholly other]. ... For those who have a religious experience all nature is capable of revealing itself as cosmic sacrality. The cosmos in its entirety can become a hierophany."

Edward Abbey wrote of the appeal of "freedom" and "danger" rather than of sacredness:

But why, the questioner insists, why do people like you pretend to love uninhabited country so much? Why this cult of wilderness? Why the surly hatred of progress and development, the churlish resistance to all popular improvements?

Very well, a fair question, but it's been asked and answered a thousand times already; enough books to drive a man stark naked mad have dealt in detail with the question. There are many answers, all good, each sufficient. Peace is often mentioned; beauty; spiritual refreshment, whatever that means; re-creation for the soul, whatever that is; escape; novelty, the delight of something different; truth and understanding and wisdom – commendable virtues in any man, anytime; ecology and all that, meaning the salvation of variety, diversity, possibility and potentiality, the preservation of the genetic reservoir, the answers to questions that we have not yet even learned to ask, a connection to the origin of things, an opening into the future, a source of sanity for the present – all true, all wonderful, all more than enough to answer such a dumb dead degrading question as "Why wilderness?"

To which, nevertheless, I shall append one further answer anyway: because we like the taste of freedom; because we like the smell of danger.


Osho. Autobiography of a Spiritually Incorrect Mystic. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2000. p 39.

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation from Round River. (1949) New York: Ballantine Books, 1970. p xvii.

Mircea Eliade. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion: The Significance of Religious Myth, Symbolism, and Ritual within Life and Culture. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1957, 1959, 1961. p 12.

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire, p 36-37

A way to live, transform, be, not a thing to possess

Markus Sakey's characters in Brilliance referred to a time "back when they had been teenagers who thought love was a noun, a thing you could possess."

We can't possess any experience. Of enjoyment, Alan Watts wrote: "Enjoyment is always gratuitous and can come no other way than of itself, spontaneously. ... Obviously, however, the person who attempts to get something from his present experience feels divided from it. He is the subject and it is the object. He does not see that he is that experience, and that trying to get something from it is merely self-pursuit."

Instead of possessing love, it becomes a way that we live and a way that we transform the world. Michel Foucault: "Affection, tenderness, friendship, fidelity, camaraderie, and companionship. Things which our rather sanitized society can't allow a place for...That's what makes homosexuality so 'disturbing': The homosexual mode of life much more than the sexual act itself. To imagine a sexual not what disturbs people. But that individuals are beginning to love one another – there's the problem."

The way that we live in turn makes us who we are. Gabrielle Zevin:

“Maya,” he says. “There is only one word that matters.” He looks at her to see if he has been understood. Her brow is furrowed. He can tell that he hasn’t made himself clear. Fuck. Most of what he says is gibberish these days. If he wants to be understood, it is best to limit himself to one word replies. But some things take longer than one word to explain.

He will try again. He will never stop trying. “Maya, we are what we love. We are that we love.”

Maya is shaking her head. “Dad, I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”

“We aren’t the things we collect, acquire, read. We are, for as long as we are here, only love. The things we loved. The people we loved. And these, I think these really do live on.”


Markus Sakey. Brilliance. Las Vegas, N.V.: Thomas and Mercer, 2013.

Alan Watts, Nature, Man, and Woman (1958), New York: Vintage Books, 1991. p 20.

Michel Foucault, "Friendship as a Way of Life." Quoted by David Nimmons, "Changing the World from the Margins." White Crane Journal. Issue #54, Fall 2002. p 7.

Gabrielle Zevin. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2014.