Exploring the fundamental prejudice against human wildness
The word “savage” is emotionally charged. Once uttered, images of men (usually men, not women) engaging in diabolical acts spring to mind: burning, raping, maiming, pillaging, torturing and killing with reckless abandon. Savages are ignorant, thoughtless and out of control. They are superstitious, childlike and impulsive. They are godless and unreasonable. They are the bane of all things humane, cultured and civilized. All this from a single word.
Back in the days when Rome and other ancient civilizations flourished, the word “barbarian” carried the same weight. But nowadays we prefer “savage,” which stems…
The world is a wild place. Earth is covered by the biosphere — a layer roughly twelve miles deep of various organisms that are all struggling to survive. Animals eat plants and each other; plants draw nutrients from soil full of decaying organic matter; fungus and microorganisms exist every which way they can. And every life form is somehow reproducing. Our home planet is a complex interplay of constantly changing entities, driven by what we call evolution.
The universe is also wild — wilder than anything we can imagine. It too has evolved, from superhot plasma into stars, galaxies, and…
Reality isn’t an abstraction in the wild.
For thousands of years philosophers have speculated about what is real, as if reason could do what the five senses cannot. The discussion almost always goes astray, sinking deep into the quagmire of semantics until it all seems like so much frivolous wordplay. But life itself takes center stage in any heartfelt consideration of the matter. And death, of course, is right there with it.
Such discussions usually occur indoors, in urban areas, in halls of higher learning where books and papers are the fundamental reality. Yet deep in the nearby forest an…
Spinoza's God is a far cry from the conventionally held, anthropomorphic one, no doubt. And yes, pantheism is the belief that God and nature are one in the same. It's brave of you to say so. Nice job!
Humankind has always been plagued by false choices. The one or the many, Western thought versus Eastern, bread or freedom — the list goes on and on. This is largely due to the tendency of most people to opt for simple solutions to complex problems. But collectively speaking, this kind of thinking gets us nowhere. Reality escapes us, time and again.
The single greatest challenge is the false choice between God and science. That is to say, between scientific facts and a belief that there is a force in the universe greater than ourselves. This challenge, hounding us since the…
The madness of civilization isn’t apparent to those of us caught up in it. We read the morning paper, catch breaking news on TV, and speak with others about the vast array of evils running rampant in the world, but secretly we believe it doesn’t affect us. We go about our daily affairs as if we live in a bubble. We put on our emotional armor in the morning then venture into traffic, fortified with a cup or two of coffee, alert yet confident that we can get to our workplace without mishap. And we usually do. …
Some problems are so formidable that it seems foolish to even consider them. The incessant growth of the human population is one of them. What can any given individual do about a problem of this magnitude? What can humankind as a whole do?
Perhaps it would be better for us to ignore it, go about our business, and let nature take its course. But, as thinking creatures, we are aware that our actions have consequences so we feel a sense of obligation to generations not yet born. Some of us do, anyhow.
Critical thinking is absolutely essential to getting at the truth of anything. One should question everything, especially that which one holds sacrosanct.
The difference between what we are and what we can make
Humankind is slowly surrendering to the machines it makes, or so it seems. We are so impressed with the things we make that we are ready and willing to immerse ourselves in them — some people are, anyhow. The harsh reality of the natural world is a big turnoff for many of those attracted to electronic devices. They find the idealized world of virtual reality much more appealing.