Monthly Archives: October 2007

Life and Death: Lessons From Nature

I suppose that human beings measure everything relative to themselves. It’s probably a natural tendency. After all, how else are we to make sense of the world? We can only make sense of the things around us by internalizing them, and knowing them in relation to ourselves. Everything around us is personified. We see through human eyes, and that will never change.

Yes, I am a human being, and will thus always be bound to a narrow anthropocentric understanding of the things around me. I accept that. But every so often I catch a fleeting glimpse of how transcendentally beautiful things could be, if percieved otherwise. Many people experience this through God; I experience it through nature. Whatever this experience is, I’m sure everyone goes through it at some point.

Life is tough sometimes, and there’s never an easy answer. Oddly enough, I take comfort in my own insignificance. Religion teaches the opposite; that the human being is the center of all things, the image of creation itself, separated from nature by divine right. But it doesn’t matter what you believe; one thing that cannot be denied is that every human being feels emotions. Whether these emotions are designed by God, or evolved instinctual responses; it makes no difference. We are all, for better or worse, pre-programmed to experience the world emotionally.

I wonder; would it be better to experience the world with an utterly rational mind, free of all emotion? What then do we make of death? Of course, death is a natural occurrence, even if unexpected. Rationally, one will conclude that the experience of death is exactly like the experience of not being born yet. It’s a nothingness so complete as to be impossible to understand while living, no matter how hard one tries to imagine it. Thus, it is impossible for a human being, rational though he or she may be, to understand death. For this reason, it is one of the only things in this world that we cannot measure relative to ourselves. Even God himself is understood by measurement to ourselves. After all, what is God if not Man? I suppose that is why death is so often explained through God.

We look at the entire natural world as being nothing more than a provision for our existence, and again, everything is measured up to us. Insects are small. Whales are big. Slugs are slow. Donkeys are stupid. Bacteria are invisible. The only thing we can know about these creatures is how they differ from us. Perhaps that is why we continue to insist that we are different from them. Rarely do we perceive nature for what she truly is. But every so often, we get a fleeting glimpse:

For all the life that will come and go on this Earth, there will be death. This should not detract from the beauty that we find while we are here; instead we should absorb what is around us and accept that we are all just small parts of one great living thing, and that thing can only live on because of death.

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