Month: October 2022

Nature shmature

The thing about nature is this, it wants to kill you. It’s nothing personal, simply the default position by which it operates. The law of  entropy governs the molecules that make up the world and they want to get you unto dust as soon as possible.

The scientific term for the gradual degradation of life forms is entropy. Simply stated, things move from a state of order to one of disorder. Think of ‘order‘ here as the way we manipulate molecules to make stuff. What we think of as order is our construction of the world. Disorder is the state of the world before we intervened. We heat and smelt iron molecules to make steel. Over time the constructed molecules break down, rust occurs. Whatever humans make from matter eventually degrades- that’s entropy. The molecules aren’t being hostile or uncooperative, it takes effort to maintain an imposed form. It takes less energy to let go than to hold on.  Modern existence is a series of artificial constructions.  Order and disorder are human terms which reflect our prejudices, not the state of the world. Maintaining the illusion of order takes time and energy.

The tendency towards disorder is everywhere.

Perhaps it’s just that the simplicity of a tent or a caravan loosens momentarily the noose of financial bondage around our necks. The Big Outside nourishes our dreams of reinvention and freedom from various interminable forms of control. We do not purchase a house; we trade a lifetime of labour for the vague dream of financial freedom. All narratives end.

Getting back to nature is not a return to some ideal state. It is, at best, an escape from the soulless tedium of modernity and, at worst, delusion on a grand scale.

Is freedom a real thing in the world, or an idea we try to impose on the world?

From the safety of suburbia and city apartments,  nature still holds tremendous appeal. It represents escape from our hamster wheel routines, mind-numbing commutes and over-peopled places.

An unpeopled, pleasant place.

But towns and cities are underrated and have had an unfair press ever since Charles Dickens revealed their underbelly in the late 19th century.

In the wake of the Industrial Revolution rural life became romanticised. A return to nature became the rallying cry of poets like Wordsworth and philosophers like Jean Jacques Rousseau. With nature subdued to landscaped gardens we soon forgot that we had to fight nature to survive. It took thousands of years of struggle to get a roof over our heads, and once safely inside we gazed through our windows at the garden with nostalgia.

We have romanticised nature.  Here in Australia people often wander into the Outback and never return. We’ve forgotten that nature is nice, from a safe distance.

We cannot escape our lives. The issues that assail us are not location specific. They will find us whether we are living in suburbia, a city apartment, a forest or on top of a mountain. Geography does not alter the state of the soul, but keep a soul in one place long enough and it’s bound to chaffe.

Maybe geography does alter the state of the soul after all?