Impressions from Humankind and Nature

Looking south from Top of the Rock, New York City

This piece started as a poem, but I am not poetic enough.

I sit, incredulous at the sound of so many trillions of rain drops (and this, a very gentle rain). Closing my eyes, I feel hands crunching foil forever. That is the sound but foil isn’t so magical. The forms of nature that surround me are impossible to comprehend. The cycles of nature are perfect throughout some avenue. The tall and narrow pines are stretching for light. The bursts of Aspen trees, how the rain so perfectly, seemingly, offsets the sun. Or how the two combine, far more powerful than any of humankind’s creations.

Surveying:  Here in Branson, there are tiny hills, steep hills, steep foot hills, and man has tried to tame those with his town.  I’m short on education. I don’t understand the most simple engineering. Our A-frame cabin baffles me. How do they know that the roof will accept the weight of what shall fall on it, relying on that simple, disturbingly-thick log through the middle? Those sides of the structure should wobble back and forth but they stick in place because people have learned. I can’t learn what the people have learned. I can’t manage the physical surroundings of my world. (I can’t manage the mental aspects of my surroundings, but that is a topic for another day.) I count on people who have an education to build these structures, and you’ll see me with my mouth agape at even the smallest engineering concepts. Even things which most people comprehend with the most basic common sense are amazing to me. I sit here and wonder why it is that I cannot keep up with humankind’s engineering brilliance.

Humankind has straight lines of all of the types you will ever imagine, and then when they do those perfect circles, you have to be astounded at how those are created to appear to be so perfect. All of these things that stand that should not stand, in my mind. I see one of the country “opera” houses. It is towering with the front of a Southern mansion, with hundreds of beautifully-crafted, square windows that have lines of small wood frames cutting through at perfect 90-degree angles. Amazing height, columns that appear to be impossible to construct.  Most people might be flabbergasted at how stupid I am, at how these little things that man creates are impossible for me to understand. These things stand as miracles before my eyes, allowing my mind to wander over endless creations of man without ever being satisfied in having understanding.

Yet, I sit here with crinkling tin foil in nature’s surround sound, and I remember that as I drove through town today, the other thing that amazed me is how run down America is. If you open your eyes, man’s creations are crumbling all over, and maybe one piece in a hundred pops up as newly constructed, but how long will it last? When I was in New York City last month, instead of being struck, I was stricken at how that city looked like a modern-day collection of Roman or Greek ruins. When I looked just right, there were no people and it was the most un-survivable mess I have ever seen. I could see that we have failed to survive as a civilization as I saw the most rotten pile of creation ever known – Amazingly, in relative terms, a pile of garbage that did not take long to create. Even the brand new buildings looked to be very near death, perhaps because they were surrounded by death.  So as I sit here, serenaded by nature’s cymbals, it occurs to me that nature’s creation, regardless of its source, a god or some other spiritual, creative flow, is the most powerful, is the only one that seems to last, even after we have worked to destroy it. I am not any kind of environmental wacko, but it was merely frightening to me that no matter how much genius seems to be behind all of these structures that humankind creates for itself, especially the most monumental ones, the ones created to worship the power of our brains and accomplishments, are merely beasts that are temporary like a tiny speck of sand in the huge General Electric engines of a Boeing 747. They are dissipating before they are even finished, just as we are, it seems.

Yet, while I sadly watch it all go faster than it should, I do relish in all of the creature comforts which my brain is far too small for understanding – This computer, the air conditioning, the roof over my head, the heat, the medical care for when I’m broken. Yes, I will enjoy those for as long as I last, or perhaps for as long as they last.

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  1. #1 by Kay Camden on May 25, 2011 - 9:40 am

    YES YES YES. This is something I ponder often, yet never so eloquently. I’m glad this turned out as an essay because my brain can understand it better.

    Did you see the tornado footage from Joplin, MO? We humans work so hard to build things, to live our lives outside of nature, and in the blink of an eye Mother Nature can take it all away.

    We are either very persevering, or very dense.

    • #2 by Carl on May 25, 2011 - 12:37 pm

      Thank you for commenting, Kay. The Joplin scene is truly tragic. It reminds us that we partially rely on good fortune that we do not create.

  2. #3 by scribbla on May 25, 2011 - 3:40 pm

    I really like the upbeat tick at the end! A super little essay about things that I too think about regularly.

    • #4 by Carl on May 26, 2011 - 6:45 am

      Thank you, Scribbla. I appreciate your reading and commenting.

  3. #5 by Find an Outlet on May 25, 2011 - 3:43 pm

    But we do live here, and we evolved to do these things through nature herself. So it seems that we have an instinctive need to create that nature easily defies but that can’t stop humans from doing what they do. Should we suppress these skills and go back to tents or teepees? When there is money flowing through the economy things get rebuilt. American is run down, but maybe someday someone will come along and make it right.

    Everything is magic to me—-electricity, plumbing, architecture, engines, computers. It often seems that the world is full of stupid people but it isn’t, because many people have a natural aptitude for creating monuments that are functional and beautiful aside from art or literature. And we need the work.

    • #6 by Carl on May 26, 2011 - 6:49 am

      Very interesting comment! You are right that we live here, and I don’t think there is a different world to wish for, especially not tents… Some of us are lucky to removed from more of it than others. I am not sure about whether we have evolved through nature or contrary to nature – I think it is more the latter. We have evolved through our own nature which is contrary to the biggest nature, in my mind, not that we can or want to do anything about that.

      You are right that we all have our aptitudes. The people who have those I don’t have command a large amount of respect from me. I like your thought and understand it – Everything is magic!

  4. #7 by Val on May 26, 2011 - 2:44 pm

    Beautiful piece, Carl. Like you I also can’t understand much of the man-made world. As for the natural world, we’re part of it. I do think the human race is predominantly a malfunctioning species though, so it’s astonishing to me that anyone does create anything and, when anyone creates anything without harming nature at the same time, that’s a wonder to me.

    • #8 by Carl on May 27, 2011 - 7:54 am

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate it.

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