Friday, April 6, 2012

The Fear and Wonder of Nature

Two men are sent into the wilderness to kill savage beasts. Liam Neeson hunts Alaskan wolves in the film The Grey. Willem Dafoe hunts a Tasmanian Tiger in the movie The Hunter. The blood on their hands greases the wheels of corporate machines, extracting oil and wood to fuel the cities where most of us employ clean hands to click on the Discovery Channel and call ourselves nature lovers.

One man slaughters his prey. Yet in losing his wonder, he knows he has lost his soul. Another man is devoured by animals. Yet in losing his fear, he discovers he has found his place. If we've actually started believing that the flashing lights of cyberspace are an authentic world, films like these can help us regain a little consciousness of reality. For many urban dwellers, stepping from the fabricated world into the real deal is like stepping ashore with Columbus - breathtaking yet terrifying.

Long before there was shopping, clubbing, banking or politicking, there was life, death, God, nature, man, woman, parent and child. If the latter seem less relevant in our daily existence than the former, we're in denial of the nature of existence. The 24-hour lights of Paris, Tokyo and New York blind us to sell us products all the days of our short fragile lives. However, the slowly and gently rising sun reminds us everyday to make peace with the cosmos. Surely, the greatest resource anyone can extract from this earth is wisdom.

This week, I set off hiking from Ixtlan de Juarez in Oaxaca into the surrounding mountains. I crunched over dry leaves and twigs until the sounds of human settlement vanished. I brushed through tall grasses and saplings till I had no sense of which direction I'd come from or which way I'd been going. I sat down on a rocky outcrop, just to fully experience that place and that moment. The wind hummed across the pines above me. Birds chirped and whistled in the meadow before me. I picked up a shiny brown acorn and ran my fingers over its silky smooth surface. I plucked out a long red blossom and sniffed at its subtle sweetness. When its fertile stamen tickled my nose, I smushed it open to reveal ivory-colored splashes like a Japanese print. Who travels farther: the person who goes from one airport to a nearly identical one across the planet or the one who sits still to open a flower and the door to another world?

Consider the lyrics of the old hippie song "Rocky Mountain High."
He walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams, seeking grace in every step he takes. His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand the serenity of a clear blue mountain lake and the Colorado rocky mountain high. I've seen it raining fire in the sky. Talk to God and listen to the casual reply. 
Don't make or take any excuses for not uncovering your primal spiritual self. This is why you are here.

1 comment:

  1. I did get to see The Grey, and enjoyed it. I have heard of the Hunter; I'll have to look it up when it turns up in my area.