Sunday evening. Preparing to get back to the “real world”.
I wonder why we call it that? Why has the human construct of commerce we call civilization been so elevated in human mind and metaphor? Why do we feel something so temporary as the things we build and the tasks at our hand to be ultimate? To be what this living gem of a planet is really all about?
I suppose it’s just that we all must “make a living”. We have to eat, and to eat we must obtain money. To obtain money we must either work or steal. We have to play by the rules of the culture or find away around the rules. Seldom do we seriously question just how real the culture itself is. Whether things actually have to be this way.
A scene from the end of the movie The Mission comes to mind. The Catholic church has just colluded with Spanish and Portuguese authorities to brutally suppress Jesuit missions in the Amazon that are trying to protect the native tribes from slavery and oppression. To comfort the bishop in charge, a lesser official says “We must work in the world…the world is thus.” The bishop, in a moment of haunting candor responds, “No Senor Hontar. Thus have we made the world.”
I would tweak that slightly. Thus have we made our world. But there is another world out there. A world that sustains ours. The world of life. A world whose rules ultimately trump even the rules of our culture. Whether we admit it or not, we are made of the same stuff everything else is. The laws of physics and the laws of life apply to us as to every other living thing. Ecosystems can be damaged and other species wiped away, but in the end we cannot “triumph” over nature because we are part of it.
I’ll be spending the next few weeks in the forests of the Allegheny Mountains in West Virginia. Though lush and verdant, these forests are a shadow of their former selves. They were clear-cut a century ago as the trees were turned into products that were turned into money. Those people, products, and the money they created are long gone, as are the timber operations that pillaged the land. No one really knows or likely ever will know what we lost ecologically and aesthetically. We will never know the species gone forever for the sake of a dollar.
It’s a bleak story, but there is hope. Life is a miracle, and the living forest is reclaiming the land. The real world is asserting itself. More than that, the real world is giving us another chance. A chance to see the vaporous nature of all our endeavors. A chance to seek harmony as opposed to exploitation. A chance to again see our connection to all life on the planet. A chance to live in the real world.