Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Practice of the Wild

I can't remember why I ordered The Practice of the Wild by Gary Snyder.  I'm sure I must have come across a recommendation to read it in something else that I was reading, but I'm darned if I can remember what that was.

Despite my lack of context as to how this book ended up on one of my many "To Be Read" piles, I am glad it did.  The series of 9 essays within contained numerous thoughts that zinged, thoughts that encouraged tangential ruminations, thoughts that spiraled into other thoughts or thoughts that redirected feelings I'd experienced so often myself.  It was particularly appropriate to be reading this book on Earth Day.

Some thoughts made me laugh, "Human beings are still a wild species (our breeding has never been controlled for the purpose of any specific yield),...."  (p. 76)

But most thoughts made me question my preconceptions at least a little.  For example, "When we think of wilderness in America today, we think of remote...regions that are commonly alpine, desert, or swamp.  Just a few centuries ago, when virtually all was wild in North America, wilderness was not something exceptionally severe.  Pronghorn and bison trailed through the grasslands, creeks ran full of salmon, there were acres of clams, and grizzlies, cougar, and bighorn sheep were common in the lowlands.  There were human beings, too:  North American was all populated....  There has been no wilderness without some kind of human presence for several hundred thousand years.  Nature is not a place to visit, it is home...."  (p. 6-7;  italics are in the original text; the bolding I added.)

This is a startling thought to me - although it's also a moment of, "Duh! Yeah! That's right!  Why hadn't I thought of this already?"  Maybe what so many people are searching for in endless shopping or eating or bedhopping or working is a sense of belonging, specifically a sense of belonging to the natural world, of truly being a part of Earth.

"Wildness is not just the "preservation of the world," it is the world....  We need a civilization that can live fully and creatively together with wildness." (p. 6)

Snyder is right.  It's long past time that we start constructing such a civilization.  We, as a species, can now all too easily destroy not only civilization, but also most life on Earth.  Why not take that understanding and use it as a reason to start the more complicated, but ultimately much more rewarding, process of living in harmony with nature? 

There are many, many more passages I'd love to share - but perhaps you should read the book?!  There are certainly plenty of concepts held within its relatively few pages that are worth thinking about and debating.


Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

My list of books I want to read is loooooong. This one sounds intriguing. It should be added. Someday....

Gaia Gardener: said...

GonSS, At least you're smart enough to have a list! I have a very bad tendency to buy the book and put it on a stack. At least I'm getting better about buying my books used!