American culture is a toddler who has just made the transition from training wheels to big kid bike, accelerating like never before, redefining speed. Except we can’t feel the wind running through our hair as we move forward.
And unlike the undeveloped nations of the world, nature is not a big player in the way we define our culture. Take the tribal areas of New Guinea for instance, who live directly in accordance with their surrounding terrain. They’ve learned the forest like a roadmap and know exactly how to handle themselves in the various calls of the wild. If the world suddenly reverted to how it was 250 years ago (into the far more natural state before mass production), it would be these societies that would fare best. Likewise, if all industry were suddenly to shut down and wilderness were to grow over our machines, we would have to completely readapt for new sources of dependency and very few of us would be able to survive.
We identify ourselves with technology, industry and economic prowess, and sadly, nature has become nothing more than a fixture of setting, stagnant and neglected scenery only possessing aesthetic value. In some way or form, we all need to realize that there is more in nature, whether something of spiritual merit or pantheistic bliss.
Before you cite our abundance of urban greenery, manicured landscape is not nature; nor is anything paved, domesticated or engineered by our own hand. Nature is the cragged and sinister mountain heads, it is the dark tangled mess of roots and branches, it is the dirt and the ugly and the dead. But nature is also the benign and ever-clear, the pubescent freshness of dew, of pure blossoms and birth. Nothing else gives us this dichotomy – nature is one of the few naturally bipolar beauties.
But industrialized “developed” countries brush off this beauty, eradicating it in lieu of the aforementioned businesses and technologies that we base our 21st century lives around. We like to move fast; we are continually unsatisfied with the speed of our feet, digestive tracts and general pace of life. Hypocrisy at its best: we rush through everything we do and then complain that it moves too fast. Time is money. Time is short. Time is unrelenting, and in many cases we make it our enemy.
Time only stops in the woods; just as the trees shed their bark, you may shed your years there too. When surrounded by the majestic wild, you may as well be in any time or space, for although nature changes it also possesses a consistency few other things do. Any virtue, meaning, or need can be found here, and the simplicity of survival purely rests upon Darwinian hierarchy and personal acclimation. This means you can discover your place in the isolated forest, away from influence and discourse.
Christopher McCandless, the man whom the film Into the Wild is based on, had the right idea. Living minimalistically and environmentally will force you to find new ways of confronting issues. We’ve become so dependent on plush, material externalities that we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves if stripped of these things. Be wary of letting your material possessions define you or speak for your character, as that seems to be consistently happening today. More importantly, don’t be a prisoner of developed culture. There is too much to be seen and too much to experience outside of the sphere of comfort we create for ourselves.
For these reasons, I take nature to be the most important thing we have. It is the last remaining glimpse of a once native and pure world, and it is quickly being forgotten, bulldozed over. I urge you to go explore what’s left of the real beauty the world can still offer you – beauty that can in no way be replicated in a lab or on a screen. The mountains are calling, the remote trails are becoming overgrown, and time is falling away from us all as we rush through life. Use your hours however you wish, but I’ll be away from here as much as I can be, learning pragmatically rather than institutionally, living improvised and striving to better understand our Mother.
ZACK CROCKETT wants to be a part-time recluse and wallow in nature’s wonders. Join in at firstname.lastname@example.org.XXX