Humans and our need to interact with the natural world

The other day after work I decided to walk through the National Zoo and I came away with a couple thoughts.  First, we humans are not the only ones with cognitive powers.  There was one orangutan that was completely working the crowd, luring everyone away from another ape and then, once he had their full attention, sending them all away in disgust to his own delight as he regurgitated a previous meal and slurped it back up again.  The thing is my nephew gets the same sense of pleasure from showing everyone his chewed up fish sticks.  A particular seal lion also resembled my nephew in his tactics for stalling to go to bed.  A keeper was trying to entice the sea lion back behind the scenes to the pen but the wise guy would only comply long enough to get a few fish and then dart back out for a swirly swim, eventually propping himself up on the rock proudly  showcasing his noncompliance.

The other main thought that struck me was the starkness between the natural beauty of life and the manicured version of life I walked back into right as I left the zoo.  In a short hour walk I had seen a wide variety of the diversity of life.  Even in these contrived unnatural habitats you could feel the wildness and raw energy of life that they represented.  Walking out of the park I remained in the same mode of gazing as a wildlife spectator and saw animals leading other animals they had specifically breed for their own enjoyment.  I saw shortly cut grass, flowers, and trees strategically positioned.   On one hand it all seemed so fake, that we in our modern industrialized age are so desperate to keep natural life around us that we find ways to bring it into our homes and squeeze it into the small pieces of land untouched by concrete.  And on the other hand I can see it as a matter of taking care of and dressing the garden we have found ourselves in.  Both persepectives pay tribute to the deep need that humans have to be surrounded by and embedded in the natural world.

Why do you think being in nature is rejuvenating?  What is the ideal relationship between man and nature?

Digg!

2 comments ↓

#1 Heather on 05.18.08 at 6:20 pm

That is a very good question you pose. I have often wondered the same thing, because even going for a walk or sitting in the sun is so wonderous to me. Perhaps we have created a contrived existence to protect ourselves from the elements, but end up getting lost in the contrived settings. We are so removed from what nature typically offers – from creating an alternate temperature within our houses to eating food that is so far from its original form. Our bodies crave the experience of existing in nature because we are made of the same substance, the same matter. I don’t know. But, I am glad that they let you out of the zoo at closing time.

#2 Alex on 08.07.08 at 10:56 am

Quote:

“The other day after work I decided to walk through the National Zoo and I came away with a couple thoughts. First, we humans are not the only ones with cognitive powers. There was one orangutan that was completely working the crowd, luring everyone away from another ape and then, once he had their full attention, sending them all away in disgust to his own delight as he regurgitated a previous meal and slurped it back up again. The thing is my nephew gets the same sense of pleasure from showing everyone his chewed up fish sticks. A particular seal lion also resembled my nephew in his tactics for stalling to go to bed. A keeper was trying to entice the sea lion back behind the scenes to the pen but the wise guy would only comply long enough to get a few fish and then dart back out for a swirly swim, eventually propping himself up on the rock proudly showcasing his noncompliance.”

Does it ever make you question the morality of caging creatures with such obvious “cognitive powers” and unique, individual personalities?

I might ask further, admitting, as you have, these capacities in those nonhumans you observed at the zoo, is there truly an insuperable line between those nonhumans and the billions of others we torture and kill annually because they satisfy our palates? It ought to be asked, don’t you think, is it moral to do these things to creatures who feel, experience, and interact with their environments in these ways for unnecessary reasons (e.g., taste). Of course given that even conservative dieticians argue that one can live a happy and healthy life without flesh.

As Heather wrote, “But, I am glad that they let you out of the zoo at closing time”; well, perhaps we should let them all out of their cages at closing time. Given the numbers of nonhumans who are being denied their efforts to realize these capacities, shouldn’t this issue be of grave concern to us?

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