thomas m wilson

We’re Going to Shoot that Scene Again

September 1st, 2008

Take one.

Lights, camera, action.

You and your friends are unrelated in any meaningful sense to the birds in the trees that you occasionally see when driving to work in the morning. You and the people you know or see on television are Human. You and your human kin have created art, written love letters, driven cars, earned incomes, built houses, and voted in federal elections. And that vast gap between you and that dog barking down the road, or that cat sitting on the sofa over there, doesn’t need any commentary. It’s big. It isn’t just a matter of a difference in scale, but an absolute change in quality. We are the elect, we are spirits and minds, we are Human.

Take two.

Lights, camera, action!

You are an incredibly complex biological organism. Your mind is the flow of scenarios that presents itself through the workings of a neo-cortex situated in your head and is constantly interrelating with thousands of chemical reactions in the rest of your body. The emotions you feel, the things that make you bother getting up in the morning at all, have a physical presence and evolved with you over the millennia, on the savannas of tropical Africa, your ancestral home. Like every other organism, you prosper when you experience many of the things available in your native habitat. These include a wide range of unprocessed foods, water, shelter, the love provided by a lover and family, the community of your tribe, some sun light, physical exercise, purpose, sleep, and the habitat itself: an ecosystem with trees, grasslands, sun, wind, rain and other forms of life, scurrying, roaming and gliding about the place.

If you think you are a smooth, urban, go-getter, who can jump in the car, buy goods and services, find full time employment, watch commercial tv, drink a beer and then put your feet up on the sofa, all the while disregarding the state of the natural world, then I suggest you reconfigure the script.

Christianity was wrong to tell us that we are transcendent souls inconveniently clothed in flesh. That gap between you and the dog barking round the corner or the cat sitting across the way is not immeasurable. Like theirs, your body, mind and spirit have been evolved over many millenia as adaptations to living in nature. Nature gives us clean food, water and air, and its diversity of colours, shapes and motions can feed our sense of wonder and mystery. We are primates. If you start to think in this manner then you’ll agree that our ancestral home has more than marginal significance.

Yes, nature is more than a lawn briefly noticed on a bold walk towards concrete and glass.