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Nature and the Metropolis


how do we find nature in a world that is overly built? And how do we convince those living in urban environments that the magic of nature is there among the streets and buildings and cars? That we have a choice to see or not to see.

We all make choices. to live fully immersed, or live a life half-way between what is built, what we build against and that which is unbuilt, that survives beyond us. We make choices to allow electronics to encircle our lives, to structure our days, and then we want to blame something that has no “legs” that it rules our lives.

Some of us just can’t cut it. Cannot take the relentlessness of humanity, its pain and joy. We cannot find the place, space, or time to recharge. To wake up happy the next day after some tumultuous previous day. Looking for some archaic purity that never really existed anyway. Because certainly in the “real” wilderness we would be hunted while hunting. Nature made calm, nature removed of its power and original struggles is nature controlled. These are degrees of the world held within our control, just a version of agrarian reality. The inability to soak into the fullness of humanity leads us to believe that we must choose its opposite, even though it might not exist anymore….

Learning to live with the wild wolf and the grizzly in spite of fear is easier for some of us than the trauma that arrives from the constancy of an overpopulated and densified piece of land we call a metropolis. But are we really learning to live with the wild creatures that are left on the planet? Or are we simply living beside them as we do in a city when we learn to tolerate the neighbors and their peculiar social activities that we cannot relate to? These are the annoyances of living.

The real issue is where do we come face-to-face with transcendence? Where do we feel at home most in a world that is difficult and risky to navigate? Where does our truth lie? Do the woods, stream, mountain and desert allow us to ignore the aspects of the world that we cannot fully come to terms with in the same way that thousands of people surrounding us on an urban street corner requires our attention more than any speck of nature that may be present at the same time and place.

believing that the urban condition reduces the presence of the natural world allows us to ignore the real work that must be taken on to retain a creative mind. Blaming the fact that we live in a dense human environment is no excuse to not daydream, to watch the moon rise or the sunset. To smell the rain on pavement. To see the green of plants growing between those things we build and then ignore.

I chose this more loosely defined, blurred environment between the built and the unbuilt, between the rural and the wild, between dogs running lose on the streets and grizzly bear swaggering down trails and mountainsides because it makes the most sense to me. This reality is the one that feels the most accurate to me, churns my mind and stirs my creativity. this place is where my god lives, where I transcend myself to something that extends beyond me. In this choice I gave up the day to day stimulation of a collective human nature, a creativity that feeds upon itself. I gave up the experience of the constantly spinning greatest cultural expressions. And I am willing to go without this, while recognizing what I lose and what I gain. This giving up is not to say that a certain great culture does not exist where I live. Great culture abounds, but it is not the culture that grows from the human intensity of a metropolis, not the culture that spins at such a high rate that change happens in the single spin of the earth.

But what I find difficult to accept is those who live in these places of great human density, where the built rivals the unbuilt, who claim that there is no inspiration where they live that comes from nature. That there is no ability to capture transcendence in their lives, in the things they make, in the raising of their children. We must all seek out the truth of the places where we live. This is our responsibility. If we do not easily find the truth then we must seek it out. Truth is us in nature, however large or small. Truth is the rain we run from on a winter day, it is the line of grass that arrives between the cracks in the concrete, it is the sun that rises on one side of the city and sets on the other, with all of the colors that come with it. Truth is the reflection of sun on our buildings. Truth, if we recognize it, is transcendence, the vastness of the world and our smallness in it.