Modern life takes effort. Just getting through to the end of the day — fighting egos and layers of management at work, then ignoring family drama, then a few hours of TV before bed — can take all you’ve got. But the last thing you need is some idiot telling you that “life is precious,” as if he wanted to raise your blood pressure.
Almost everyone has a slightly different idea of what “life is precious” really means. Since everyone has a voice, we naturally take this to mean that life is precious because all of us are here, and we each have an equally valid opinion! The problem with this view is that it ignores the larger patterns of nature, in which we are participants but not “in control” as we like to assume we are.
Our entire society suffers from this illusion of control. When we think about it, life being precious means the exact opposite of catering to the individual ego. Life itself is precious, not our interpretation of what we want right now. Life is the bigger natural process, a pattern of nature more than a tangible thing, and if we don’t pay attention to it, it’ll slip right on past while we zone out.
Even twenty to thirty years ago, growing up in a suburb meant playing kickball with the neighborhood kids; parents didn’t even have to watch every move you made; before the busy-ness of full time school started a kid could wander into the woods and let his imagination run wild – with or without friends or supervision. Those days are over in favor of two years of preschool so Mommy can get her hair done and “have a life.”
Think about a supermarket. Buy the raw ingredients that require someone to cook them, or just stock up on the convenient products of an industry conveniently based around the things cheapest to make, like grains and sugars? The vitality of nature is removed from a Twinkie, or from machines draining hormone-bloated cows or squeezing eggs out of debeaked GM chickens.
Yet it’s easy to space out and ignore all of this. There’s a nice cool breeze in the supermarket, and pleasantly vapid music, and people who are paid to smile when you greet them. So you pile all the crap in the cart, swipe the card and head off home — one more thing checked off the list! One fewer obligation! Now you’ve got time for yourself again, to do something you really want to do instead of have to do.
The alternative is not so easy. Instead of thinking about what you want, as if the world is an optional part of yourself, think about how you fit into the world. Think about the patterns of nature, which evolved over billions of years, and how you’d live harmoniously with them. If we look at the food industry, we can see how we’d do that.
Replace centralized food production with self-sufficient, smaller communities. Don’t eat peaches in the middle of winter; eat them in season, when they grow around you. Grow tomatoes in the summer and eat them in the summer. Then grow your squash, tubers, grains and fruit and store them for the winter. Squeeze yourself back into the patterns of nature.
In doing away with the idea of not having certain foods in certain seasons, we disengage ourselves from nature – and hence, reality. We have used our technology to obliterate the patterns of nature because it “seems like” the individual wants more convenience and more options, even if that individual has no idea what to do with all those options. But if you want peaches in winter, you’ll need a globalized economy and centralized food production.
Before we decided to replace reality with a fake reality, the summer solstice and winter solstice were celebrated precisely because the summer gave us bounty and the winter was a sign of prolonged sleep for most of the food that gives us life. But everyone knew it was a cycle, and a few short months from winter we’d once again be celebrating longer, warmer days.
As part of local communities, we inherently understood how much the land could bear and kept our populations low. We didn’t need so many laws, because what should and should not be done was clearer. We followed the rhythm of the seasons, and were less manic about staying in touch or checking in with the news. We didn’t need to be told what was real or important — we lived it.
To people who were raised to ignore and even fear natural processes, these ideas are sacrilege. Following natural patterns means we need to give up the idea that we are in control. But if we ignore these natural patterns, we become a species that is more tumor or virus than animal, and our sense of detachment heightens as we wonder if we will ever find anything “real” again.