Friday, May 25, 2012

Meditation on Death, and Nature

The following essay is a summation of thoughts I have had locked away inside for some time.  Today they just came pouring out, in an online discussion about ethics (including the morality of humans killing animals and other life in order to feed ourselves).

I am not going to argue that death is always a bad thing. But this means that human death is also not always a bad thing. We cannot make it our practice to keep people alive at all costs, when the cost is destroying the possibility for future generations (of people and all the other life we need to survive).

I don't support "whatever it takes" to keep people from starving, since in my experience "whatever it takes" will amount ultimately to postponing useful death for useless death: nature culls what she cannot support; when we make her support what she would rather not without reservation, we eventually end up on the wrong side of the ledger she uses to maintain the balance that we all enjoy.

Ever since humans invented agriculture (and perhaps before), we have been pursuing the theory that individuals don't really matter. If I drop dead tomorrow, one of my 21 children will pick up the slack (and take my place on the field, in the factory, in the army, doing our bit to keep the human hive alive). Potato farmers in Ireland died not because of fungus, in my view, but because they were expendable resources (whose encroaching presence nature resisted: Ireland is not able to support infinite crowds of people; when we try to make it do so, it defends itself by putting out blights and such, culling the weak). This has always been Nature's way, and it will continue until we destroy her; as we speak, the ruthless goddess we all serve willy-nilly continues to pursue her savage justice, killing weak people all over the world. Trying to make her stop being so mean just throws fuel on the fire, if history is any judge: we beat a small plague so that we can have a bigger one. Smallpox, polio, and measles go down so that AIDS, superbugs, and "diseases of civilization" can take their place. There is no end in sight (for me: I am aware that some people see things differently, and I am content with that; this post is mostly just an exercise in verbalization for me; I have been keeping these thoughts inside too long).

I don't ask for mercy from Nature. I don't think I can control her. I don't think anyone can, really. The most we can realistically hope for, in my view, is finding a somewhat pleasant balance with Nature (by letting her have her own way as much as possible, with our contribution being a mitigation of her most painful "remedies" uncorked against us; let me die of AIDS, or some superbug, or diabetes, but at least I can say goodbye to my friends and go peacefully in a bed, with someone else there to close my eyes and hand my corpse back to the Mother (who resists my effort to last too long or leave too many descendants: she loves the individual, the small group, more than I do, perhaps)

If I could sum up my attitude in one sentence, it would be something like this: "Nature is beautiful, and she is trying to kill you; for your own good, you had better come quietly."

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