An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of February 21, 2010
issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining Chichén Itzá Ruin in
YUCATÁN, MÉXICO

NOTHING IS UNNATURAL

One early morning deep in the woods I stood below a Kikché tree as the day's first breeze stirred. A predawn shower had fallen and leaves were still wet. The breeze shook from the Kikché's leaves myriad silvery water-droplets, which cascaded to the forest floor sparkling as they passed through the day's first beams of sunlight. The droplets were cold and wet, but the sunlight was warm and friendly. Orioles called and a butterfly flitted by. Turning around and around trying to take it all in but not paying attention to where my feet were, my legs crossed, I lost my balance and fell to my knees, keeping myself upright with my walking stick, laughing, laughing.

There on my knees propping myself with the stick, a reflective mood came over me. I'd just experienced a fleeting, magical moment, but now I needed to return to "real life." Here's the thought that came to me: Returning to "real life" didn't really mean that I was "leaving Nature." For, really, nothing is unnatural.

The walking stick supporting me recently had been a tree sapling that had been cut to a certain length, debarked, and now was holding me upright. At what point had that stick stopped being a natural, debarked sapling cut to a certain length, and become an unnatural walking stick? Never, I decided.

The stone church's wall beside me as I type this is made of stone and cement. The cement is fired, pulverized limestone mixed with water, then let dry. It's easy to see that this wall is natural, just that its components have been reconfigured by human hands. The same thinking can be applied to steel, plastic, glass, and even our computers, for all the minerals, petroleum derivatives and electrochemical processes serving us in those things are perfectly natural, just reconstituted by man and used in novel combinations.

It's worth getting straight in our minds that "nothing is unnatural." That's because if we allow ourselves to believe that humans somehow exist apart from Nature, that somehow we're special, it's easier to imagine that we live according to rules different than those we see governing Nature.

Once we abandon our delusion that the human animal here on Earth has a special deal with the Creator of the Universe, what we see in Nature is sobering. We don't see the prayers of trees delivering them from bark-beetle invasions; fish don't conduct rituals resulting in the purification of their polluted streams; no ecosystem produces priests or prophets revealing how practicing a "faith" can save the ecosystem from global warming or nuclear radiation poisoning.

That's the bad news. The good news is that humans are endowed with brains that miraculously enable us to behold in Nature patterns or paradigms upon which we can model our lives. And those patterns when practiced not only can keep our species from self-annihilation, but even enrich us individually and make us happy.

Among the easiest to see and understand of Nature's patterns are those of frugal and simple living, of recycling, of respect for diversity, and cooperative behavior. Facebook Icon.