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Nature and the Ego

Nature, as a concept in the modern mind, has been acutely distorted by human materialism. Given ‘nature’ in a word-association quiz, the emotional reaction of most modern minds would be along a wide scale, from a sort of nostalgic Romanticism to a general indifference. For some, who grew up in the suburbs, or outside cities, the trees, fields and ravines in childhood memories retain a deeper connection; where the feel of grass in summer, the earthiness of decaying leaves in fall, the scent in the air after a rain storm, the crunch of snow underfoot all draw the memories back to a time of innocence and youth, when Nature was tangible – when it still called with its richness to be touched, climbed, smelled, and felt. On the other end, modern society has corralled nature into usable parcels: parks, woodlots between neighbourhoods waiting for the bulldozers of eventual development, admission-charging conservation areas, and full-facility camping areas. Nature, as a whole, has become one massive resource for human consumption; domestic animals are treated as conscious-less objects, simply walking machines for turning cheap cereals and feed into packaged value-added meat.

Underneath our disregard and abuse for the natural world is a fundamental mental rot – a worldview that divides all of reality into two categories: 1. My self; my own conscious being, and other human beings who are all subjects and souls, and 2. The rest of the objective universe; unconscious and dumb matter. At best, the divide between the two categories still holds some caring and emotional concern. We do still seem to have feelings for the species that we are pushing in terrifying droves towards extinction. We do still seem to care for the loss of forests, for the growing piles of plastic and garbage washing ashore on every ocean beach. Many of us still hold grave concern for climate change and what effect this collection of human souls is having on the planet. But, our concern does not really drive us to change our attitude and behaviour. The reason for this is clear: it is not that we don’t care enough, it is because we are stuck within a distorting and crippling paradigm of materialism that divides our subjectivity from the objective world so thoroughly that the very best we can hope for is to limit or slow down the damage we are inflicting. Pulling us, however, on the other end, towards catastrophe, is an extreme egoic mentality that has so completely disconnected the subjective “I” from the material world that it has rushed willingly into a conceptual, language-based reality and has created for itself a universe that is disposable – where the identity of the soul is paramount. In such a mind, religion becomes a dark force, valuing the soul at the expense of all things; a soul that would rather sacrifice the entire world – its beauty, its life, its future, for the belief that it is all a happy playpen, where we are temporarily spending some time until the cosmic parent comes and lifts us out and takes us safely away.

Nature, after all, doesn’t match our desire. The human ego judges the planet and hold it in comparison to the perfect version in the mind; a version of nature that is absolutely congenial and unperturbed. In the real world there is pleasant and unpleasant weather. To hold the human body intact and healthy in a world that is indifferent to human concerns has set us on an adversarial path. ‘Out there,’ in the real world, there are mosquitoes and invasive insects, there are floods and cold winters, there are vicious animals, there is dark and terrifying night time, there are germs and viruses – and all of these things out compete the joy of temperate climates and the beauty of nature, because they cannot be fully controlled and thereby threaten our subjective ego. To the self, the “I” of the human ego – trapped as it is in a conceptual net of language – the natural world holds one thing it cannot abide in its very nature: death. The objective world is like the coming spring to a snowman, it heralds the slow and certain dissolving of being, the return to non-consciousness. And this is unbearable to the self.


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