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Man & Nature: Plurality not Duality!
by Naveen Jagan Bookmark and Share

Understanding nature to be something that which isand not as something confined by a human definition.  To reverberate this contention: that nature is a pluralistic system of interconnectedness and interdependency and not simple biomass that is expendable, carrying limited use.  Such a definition offered by modern day science, and by those who wish to treat nature as mere raw material: I beg of them to think twice!  I ask for them to see past their dualisms and embrace multiplicity.  

A peculiar thing happens in my town.  Ever year around Halloween the town leaders put together a gathering ' a social event mainly to promote kinship in our town.  The event this year was started by a huge bonfire, set off at a nearby soccer field that is no longer used.  I promised myself that I would not go and see the fire.  But, I betrayed myself and went anyways.  I couldn't believe it.  I was distraught!  I didn't know if it was the destructive use of fire, or the enormous combustion of wood releasing carbon monoxide among other toxins like cancer causing carcinogens that made feel this way.  Although, I think a major part of it were the people, those who were pretending to be enjoying this violent scene, along with dancing and grooving to music with profane lyrics ' violent in content towards women and others.  This incident, in short, summarized for me the violent tenacity of western [Cartesian] philosophical outlook on nature as terra mater malleable to human desires, and a culture rooted in violence and destruction. 

Not long ago, I was on this same Neff field, with a friend, lying down on my back spread eagle, looking into the night sky and counting the stars. With the light around me it became difficult to observe the beauty of the celestial, hence I turned around and faced the ground.  I quietly observed the surface I was laying on.  My superficial observation revealed plain grass, however when I investigated the grass with the eye of an amateur naturalist, I saw the wonders of nature.  I observed small creatures: ants, bugs, moths, worms, all working their ways, digging in and out of the soil.  I saw the roots of small fungi, small plants, moss and other living organisms that were growing with the grass.  I was able to identify at least four different grass varieties and the total variety of species nature had to afford was truly awesome. In short I discovered a whole vibrant ecosystem that was active and productive.  I pointed it out to my friend, an urbanite and even she observed it with awe; it was a prettier site than the inactive night sky.

Recollecting my experience, I flashed-forward and saw a burning Neff field, with a huge fire degenerating the soil.  It was charred black, and I was sure that any ecosystem that was initially there had been destroyed by this holocaust.  Now, I know, 'gee,' you may say, 'should we expend our regrets for killing a few bugs?'  I do not wish your sympathy for the ants; rather, my case is merely a plea for understanding the plurality of biological systems.  Understanding nature to be something that which is and not as something confined by a human definition. To reverberate this contention: that nature is a pluralistic system of interconnectedness and interdependency and not simple biomass that is expendable, carrying limited use.  Such a definition offered by modern day science, and by those who wish to treat nature as mere raw material: I beg of them to think twice!  I ask for them to see past their dualisms and embrace multiplicity.   

In Indian philosophy, soil is equated with the feminine principle and known specifically as BhoomiMata [mother], for her stupendous ability to produce and sustain life.  Soil is considered living in an esoteric and exoteric sense and is worshipped by not only by farmers but also urbanites interested in real estate (oddly enough).  Destroying soil and deeming it inert is equated to rape.  With this tradition I view this bonfire as act of abomination.   

I failed to see the point in burning wood in a bonfire for pure entertainment.  What was it suppose to do? Uplift town spirit? Promote a social gathering of fifty some teens with 'cancer sticks' [cigarettes] in their mouths blowing off smoke, much like the fire?  I failed to see the 'enjoyment' aspect of destroying soil, which although didn't serve a useful purpose to begin with [for us], served as an active miniature ecosystem for other life forms that seemed to be utilizing it in a civil manner.   

Also, the resource of water spent on putting out the fire was a total misuse of such a limited, yet vital, sustenance commodity.  I was reading an article about the Middle East crisis in an environmental publication.  It wasn't about the recent clash between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but about the water crisis.  People in the Middle East have severe water shortages.  This article also went on to show the devastation of people due to water scarcity in the third world and how the US itself might face water shortages if we don't follow an active water conservation policy.  Although I don't quite agree with the solutions offered by the article, I do agree with the claim that we waste and use excessive amounts of water.  The amount of water used to put out the twelve minute bonfire proves this assertion.   

Fire fighters were brought in to put out the fire, by using and reducing water to recreational purposes; and those honorable firefighters were reduced to party clowns.  I don't think this was the intent of the program organizers.  However, this ended up, in my opinion, being a total waste of soil, wood, fuel, water, fire trucks, and fire fighters.  I find it sad that our notions of fun are equated with destruction and violence, and not creation and sustenance.   

This is just one example of how our everyday lives and activities that we seek for entertainment purposes play an active role in promoting destruction and violence. I'm sure if we looked around us and saw every wooden object we own, every object that has been removed from its natural setting for some man made cause that is destructive and not useful for sustenance, we can come up with an ever ending laundry list of such objects.  We should question ourselves on how much of nature we are willing to disturb, and how much of ourselves are we willing to lose, as we alienate ourselves from nature in this 'modernized' society.    

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