Man vs Nature

When I was in high school, we went on a field trip to the DeYoung museum in San Francisco. It’s not my favorite museum, mostly because of this one room in the back of the building, past the African mask collection and in between the antique Chinese jade and the Quaker chairs: the man versus nature paintings. They’re all very anodyne paintings on small canvases, perhaps 12″ x 24″, of sunsets and trees and waterfalls, done by white men two centuries ago. That room always offended me. Mostly because that type of art was unrelatable – my teacher told me that these paintings were all about man’s struggle to overcome the chaos and also beauty of nature. I was living in the 21st century – man versus nature was a moot point. Hadn’t we won? We had cars and planes and air conditioning and pesticides and plastics.

I still don’t care for those paintings, but within my short lifetime I’ve come to regard the struggle of man versus nature in a different light. I thought we had won, but now, here we are, in the midst of global warming and at the tail end of a pandemic. I find it so disappointing that people think that Covid 19 was made in a lab. Actually, I find it to be arrogant. We thought we had won the war against nature, but little did we know that mother nature was making a come back. As intelligent as humans are, we are no match for mother nature. While I am confident that humans are capable of designing diseases and viruses, no one does it quite like mother nature. That bitch does everything! She turned specs of carbon into the teeming life we see on earth today. She made mushrooms and orca whales and slugs and puppies and humans. Of course she can throw a pesky little virus at us, and of course that virus can rapidly evolve over the course of years. The scientists in Wuhan might be working with malicious intent, but no one is as malicious, creative and clever as mother nature.

I used to think that man was going to win this thing, but the more I think of it now, the more I realize that our time on this planet is a mere blip compared to millennia of life that have existed on this planet. I don’t know why I thought that we would conquer and outlast mother nature. While global warming is a concerning issue for the here and now, I’ve been considering it from the macrocosmic level, and I’ve decided: life finds a way. The climate is changing on this planet, and that is going to lead to what we perceive to be catastrophe: crop failure, flooding, unmanageable temperature fluctuations. Human beings will face displacement, famine, and natural disasters unlike what we have seen before. But we will survive. That’s what we do. Sure, it’s going to suck. A lot of us are going to die. Climate change will be accompanied with political turmoil, strife, and war. I’m honestly not looking forward to it. But in the grand scheme of things – life finds a way. Maybe not my life, and maybe not the life of the people I love. But life in general goes on. Fuck it, humans might lose their dominance on this planet. We might eventually go extinct. But in our place: something new. I’m sure that something new will be terrifying. But my life expectancy is 79 years, so I’m like half way done with being here. I won’t be around for the worst of it. Even if I were, I probably wouldn’t survive it.

I stand in awe of mother nature. I know other people believe in god and try to assign meaning to life on earth, but I’m just blown away by the fact that the chaos of the universe has resulted in me, sitting here, on my computer, typing away, sitting on my velvet couch, about to grab my Louis Vuitton purse, and go out the door and sell some booze. All of this might fade away – perhaps there will be an earthquake, or a bombing, or I will wake up one day and decide to drink myself into despair and death. Life is fragile, so I’m just trying to have a good time while I’m here. Nature is going to win, but nature was always going to win, because why was man at war with nature in the first place? If anything, we are a part of nature, and we will go the way of nature: ephemeral, and billowing through the chaos of life on earth.

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