I get the feeling that our culture does not contain the ingredients to create mature men and women, which is worrying for our future. If this is true, there would be many complex reasons behind it, and it seems to me that one of the major contributors is our alienation from nature.
The picture of nature that I have grown up with is one that has been dragged down and portrayed as a competitive struggle for survival in a hostile environment that doesn’t care, where rational self-interest is what motivates germs, gerbils and Germans. Like some big leafy marketplace full of greedy transacting merchants trying to leg each other over. This is a typically man-made image; our story of biology has merged into our concept of economics, to suit the way we are behaving.
Artificial nature will breed artifical men (and women). What men are we?
Real nature, like real men, can be fierce, spontaneous, commanding, but also deeply caring and nurturing. And if these energies are directed only at self-preservation, it results in chaos – men who are lost, uninitiated, imprisoned in a child’s mentality, chasing status like sweeties.
What might put men back in touch with their true potentialities? Deep experience in real nature is surely one way, with all its sticky struggle and wondrous abundance.
A species cannot have such comfort and safety as we have without great cost, and without the balance being restored elsewhere. Nature is not comfortable. It is full of pain and tribulation, as well as full of deep contentment. Not only have many societies managed to lose their experience of this deep contentment and self-reliance, replacing it with the shallow comforts of the false friends of predictability and convenience (for a ‘lucky’ number of people in reality, and for most only in aspiration), we have also managed to export the toll of that numbing comfort onto other people, onto other animals, and onto our own life support system. And, in so doing, back onto ourselves.
It’s not about nature itself; I see nature as a gate – for walking through, not for sitting on or clinging onto. So I don’t mean New Age tree-hugging, or any other modern idolatry. Nature is one route, and a very effective one, through to touching the exuberant, potent, demanding, healing, dangerous, messy realm of primal human-ness, and encountering inside ourselves the wild, deep-feeling and whole creatures that we are capable of being, existing as part of a greater organism. This is instead of being ushered towards a destructive, abominated and lost version – either getting fat, ugly and bored on one side of the poverty line, or emaciated, desperate and violent on the other.
All this seems to me something so vitally important, and exciting, to be talking about, but I find it so hard to come across the conversations.