Genocidal Plants and Killer Deer:
Discernment and Reason For Us Unreasonably Nature-Loving Folks
by Jesse Wolf Hardin
Things aren’t “all good”, in spite of the popularity of the expression… it’s a matter of perspective, even in nature.
In my life, as in our teachings at Anima School, the most consistently valuable sources of information and inspiration, new ways of perceiving and more complete understanding, have been 1. actual personal (and sometimes intuitive) experience, and 2. the natural world. I’ve been formed as well as informed by the processes of nature and the usually exemplary examples of wild creatures and plants, the ultra awareness and lasting loyalty of the wolf, the bravery as well as playfulness of the river otter, bamboo’s attitude and dandelion’s perseverance, the importance of diversity, and water’s ability to cycle and transform, rising into the sun warmed winds and then finding it’s way back to earth and home.
Usually exemplary examples, I say, because even the most ardent nature freaks among us do not necessarily want to adulate or emulate the slave-holding traditions of the various ant tribes, returning to that early human practice of capturing and harnessing another race in order to produce riches for our kind. Only Fox News could celebrate such brutal domination.
Nor is gang rape any more commendable when sex crazed ducks do the raping instead of drunken, duck walking frat boys. And the ingratiating way that submissive male wolves grovel, piss on themselves, and lick the butts of a dominant male is something that I – known for my wolfen name, totem and traits – don’t even care to picture, let alone copy.
Nearly as dangerous as writing off the natural world as external, savage or irrelevant, is the tendency of some us to idealize it as all-wise and totally free of duplicity, its animals killing only what can be eaten, never waging war or hoarding resources. But cuddly looking chimpanzees, like Tarzan’s furry buddy Cheetah, wage deadly war on other nearby chimp bands. Coyotes, while not as much of a problem as ranchers sometimes claim, nevertheless have been known to sometimes work themselves into a fury of blood lust, such as killing every sheep in a pen without either stopping to eat or trying to drag any home.
But don’t just put it off on predators. Bambi-eyed deer snap up any field mice that they come across while grazing, and elk have been found to unkindly chew the heads and legs off of ground-nesting baby birds, and the fact that they swallow mainly the calcium rich skulls and spit out the meat is hardly comforting.
When Tamarisk want to take over an entire riparian zone, they do so in part by secreting and blanketing the ground with salt, making it uninhabitable by any other species.
These salt cedars surely don’t have conscious genocidal intentions, but genocide is the result in most areas of the U.S. that they colonize. Incapable of deception? Plants that kill and eat insects and even small mammals, often catch them using a practical but disingenuous ruse, pretending to give away a gift of pollen or other food in order and then seizing and dissolving the tissues of those enticed by their advertised generosity.
As for the inevitable intelligence of nature, there is no doubt that nature in whole, in balance, exhibits world’s more more savvy and survivability than even the most educated, conscious or in-tune of modern human kind… and the average plant exhibits more usable intelligence than the average couch potato by far. And yet, not everything that nature does is particularly smart, ever so often resulting in human-like self destructive patterns and leading to an evolutionary dead end. To drive the point home, so to speak, we need look no further than the moose photographed while attempting to copulate with the cold brass statue of a buffalo. Intrepid, yes, but to my way of thinking not very bright.
Even when the acts of nature appear most wise and noble, their examples do not always apply to us. What’s right for another species, is not always what is most helpful, honorable, useful or right for us. We can learn something from everything in nature, but that doesn’t make it always admirable or even applicable to us and our lives. Sometimes we can learn from negative examples, by what we strongly sense we don’t want to do, sensing not just in our reasoning minds but at the deepest levels of our being, realize we do not want to act.
The key, as always, is to be aware and discerning, making responsible choices, learning from, distinguishing the value of and then either adopting, amending or rejecting any models of behavior that we witness and investigate.
Most of my readers know well that they can’t unquestioningly accept everything that the dominant social and cultural paradigm asserts or insists on, that all rules and laws are not in all cases fair. No matter what the authorities say or our country’s cultural trends may dictate, most of us still realize that toys like Barbie dolls are not only superficial but and a set-up and trap, that money doesn’t guarantee happiness or democracy ensure justice, that plants are never simply “weeds”. While we may foolishly give the benefit of doubt to a Democratic president no matter how much war he wages or how many freedoms he undermines, my readers can usually see the dangers of right wing demagogues and can avoid blindly accepting at face value or even idolizing every civilized icon and notion.
What is harder for us, in most cases, is to relate to and learn from nature without anthropomorphizing, projecting, and idealizing.
One can’t really come to know or have a healthy relationship with another person if we only see what we want to see in them, unrealistically idolize, sanitize or canonize them. Likewise, we can neither deeply comprehend nor have a deep and honest relationship with nature and other species, without seeing them whole, as complex as well as beautiful, self serving as well as community supporting, potentially dangerous as well as often healing. We’d do well to remember that we ourselves are integral elements of the natural world we love and study. To this Gaian, ecological and energetic whole and flux we bring the possibility of natural reason and discernment as well spirit and heart.
(for further discussion of perception, anthropomorphism, interspecies communication and nature as teacher, look to future issues of Plant Healer Magazine)
(Please post and forward freely)