Wild autonomy in an age of political domination

Often I’ve looked into the eyes of wild animals. The animal will respond in one of three ways. It might avert its gaze, avoiding or ignoring me completely. In certain instances, as in confronting a predator, my gaze could prove confrontational, provoking an attack. Most commonly, though, an animal will return my gaze with a blank and dignified stare. Its eyes suggest to me that, despite our shared existence, its perception and consciousness are not my own.

Now reverse the scenario. I am the wild animal. I return the gaze of those whose intent and values I can’t fathom. But I must accommodate the encounter. I can’t ignore it or abdicate my responses to others. Nor will I be provoked, reacting blindly in rage. So I choose the third return: my gaze will assert my self-contained difference. I will hold to my nature. But I will not be smug. I won’t assume a superiority as I accommodate or reject the perceptions of others.

Wild animals are utterly free from domination. They resist when they can. And if they must submit to overwhelming, diminishing forces, they do so not as acceptance but as a matter of existential course. I remember, daily, to rejoin their ranks.

elegy for the elegists

So the world is inundated with environmental destruction, political maneuvers, piercing ideologies, and power struggles. But encompassing this world is the factual earth, which does not strive. I recall a passage from an essay “The Nature of Nature Writing” by David Rains Wallace: “It’s important to know how bad things are, but to me there’s something unimaginative about the elegists. As dealers in myth, writers ought to know better than to let technocrats and salesmen mesmerize them into believing that civilization can conquer nature. They should understand that this is a myth, too, what one might call the myth of nature as loser. But nature is not a loser because it is not a competitor . . . [We] are capable of reducing the biosphere to dust.  It is not nature that will have lost in that event.”

the unexpected beauty of a bog


Now to blog about bogs: here's the memorable last paragraph of the article "Bogs" by Henry Wismayer. (New York Times Magazine, November 20, 2016.)

"It is all too easy, in this age of image saturation, to fall victim to a creeping ambivalence about the grandiose--those mountains and waterfalls that are supposed to excite our sense of the sublime. The bog, by contrast, reassured me that the natural world would never run dry of mystery. Like the sight of a spider spinning a delicate web or a shark's sinuosity, it distilled the power of grace that contradicts negative expectations. It was beauty magnified by the delight of surprise."


From the introduction to Oregon's Living Landscape (The Oregon Biodiversity Project, 1998):

Some conservation biologists believe that habitat fragmentation--the breakup of extensive habitats into small, isolated fragments--is the most serious threat to biodiversity and is the primary cause of the present extinction crisis. These fragments are often isolated from each other and surrounded by a modified or degraded landscape. The result is a reduction in the total area of the habitat, less "core" habitat and more "edge" habitat.

I wonder if this characterization is analogous to the cultural environment many artists find themselves operating within--we are, like habitats and their denizens, often isolated from one another, working intently in our little cells, surrounded by degraded cultural forces. And so we shift to edges--or edgy creative spaces: new habitats characterized by liminal zones, amorphous boundaries, decentralized authority, and ever-new (& more urgent) adaptations.

Does the analogy hold?