Tuesday, March 31, 2009
In Defence of Open Space
(This one was written for a college writing class, where Dad waxed philosophical.)
"Miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles." This is how one city-reared woman described parts of the west. This is a typical attitude of those people who have been reared in a completely machine-dependent environment, and are machine-dominated to to the extent that they feel vulnerable and helpless when isolated from their mechanical master, and are far away from the place where they will be fed and housed with little effort on their parts, even those who are not self-reliant enough to provide for themselves. These people bring to mind a story by Frederick Brown, in which the world's greatest mechanics (called scientists by the people) had managed to connect all of the greatest electronic brains by a world-wide electrical circuit. When the circuit and feedbacks were all completed, the first question the head mechanic asked was,
"Is there a God?"
"There is now," was the reply. A sudden fear chilled the spine of the scientist, and he reached for the switch to break the connection. However, a bolt of lightning instantly fused the switch permanently closed.
It appears that man moves ever closer to an idol worship of his one-time mechanical slaves. The great leaders of the human race, even as early as Biblical times, recognized the danger of placing one's dependence upon a blind trust in some unseen power of a detached, inanimate force. Whether one feels that the guiding force of humanity arises from within, is a universal force embracing all mankind, or emanates from an all-wise and all-powerful Super-being to us, most thinkers recognize a danger of detioration when mankind entirely loses its self-reliance.
How else can one develop self-reliance, without being placed in a situation where one is dependent upon himself at least for entertainment and moral strength. A retreat from the pressures exerted by fellowmen has been recognized as valuable by many great leaders. Some of them, of course, emulated Pascal, who liked a quiet room in which to think and grow mentally and morally. Others, like Christ, preferred to get out where the very force of life is evidenced in a quiet and forceful way.
This impression of sagebrush and grasslands being miles and miles of nothing, demonstrates the ignorance and poor observation ability of most city dwellers (And I speak from my own past.) Since one need not worry about danger as long as he faithfully obeys traffic laws and other ordinances, and pays large taxes to support an efficient police department, he is enabled to walk through life with his thoughts withdrawn into himself, and brood about his own ill fortune, seldom noticing the worse plight of others. With head bowed and eyes perpetually downcast (Perhaps in the hope of finding a billfold of good living), if it weren't for the summer heat, he might not even realize that the sun still shines.
Even most deserts have something besides "miles and miles." I once thought of the Mojave desert as a place where life was improbable, if not almost impossible. After I saw an eagle flying away with a jack rabbit, and found that there were great numbers of kangaroo rats, pocket mice, bobcats, owls, songbirds, coyotes, insects, and snakes which are well adapted to desert life, and began noticing the various forms of well-adapted plant life, such as tiny annuals which bloom after a shower, produce seed, and die, all in a span of a few days, I gained some realization of the toughness of life, and also gained inspiration and courage to face and solve problems in my own life, instead of regarding myself as the pawn in a game between two gigantic forces called Good and Evil, each of which was so tyrannical there was little to choose from between them.
I have learned to love sagebrush county since I have become acquainted with some of the "citizens" of this type of country. Unlike some farmers who feel an urge to bulldoze out all brush of whatever description in order to make a quick fortune, regardless of the welfare of America (Which suffers every time good topsoil is blown or washed away), I feel that there is much to be learned by the study of every type of terrain in the world. Mankind is still too immature to build a brave new world, although we have the tools now which would make it only too easy to do. At least, we could build a new world, perhaps comparable to what the earth look at its beginning.
It is possible that all of us, even the most self-reliant and individualistic, could be brainwashed to the extend that we could live uncomplainingly in a bare town of brick and concrete, and even do away with trees and grass in order to make room for more people and more hydroponic gardens to feed them, but I have a feeling, perhaps a premonition, that the decline and fall of the human race would soon follow.