Understanding Nature by “Cherry Picking” It.

In the last post I’ve talked about the ambiguity when defining nature. We call unnatural things natural, and natural things unnatural. We use hair products to get a “natural” hair, while the real natural hair is just a stinky mess. Some people in society say that homosexuality is not natural, but never stop to think that if it was the case, then we wouldn’t be able to see homosexuality in nature. But we sometime confuse nature on purpose, and this could be seen in the manner we imagine nature.

Nature in our imaginary world is familiar to us humans. We impose on nature our ideals and social structures. To see that all one needs to do is to open the TV on a children channel.  We can see talking animals that lead human like lives. We also give certain animals human traits. We call the fox cunning and the lion brave. Though foxes are not the only cunning animal out there and the the male lions are so lazy that the females do all the dirty work for them. In Disney movies animal-pets follow the main character and even if they cannot speak human language, they show signs of human intelligence. I guess they play a key role in supporting the main hero and give comical reliefs.

But we also apply our social realities in more serious areas. When Carl Linnaeus wrote the ‘sistemate nature’ (system of nature), he arranged nature in the same social structure he knew best. He used the monarchy as a model for nature so we got the “The Animal Kingdom”. He imposed a hierarchy which does not exist in nature at all, just for it to make sense. This is the basis for fairy tales and popular culture which Disney’s “The Lion King” is the perfect example (though it might highly (very very) influenced by the work of Ozamu Tezuka “Kimba the White lion” ).

The act of imposing human reality onto nature didn’t end with the “outside” nature, it also was applied to the human nature. In the age of the steam engine, psychology thought that the brain is like the steam engine, so we use even today sentences like “I need to blow off some steam” and “I have too much pressures”. Later when the computer became the model scientists started to refer to the brain as a computer. The brain “calculates” information, and the memory is like a hard discs (You could read about it more in the book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”). Some researches even think that the main function of sleep is for the brain to “defrag” itself.

But in reality, we are afraid of nature when it is in it’s raw and non-domesticated form. So we force nature to bend to our rules when we want to enjoy it. Most of us encounter nature only in controlled environments, for example when we go to camping we go to parks that have electricity, water, shower etc. We cherry pick nature in our lives, we want a garden, but not the bugs that come with it. We like trees but we plant only certain ones in certain places. Plants decorate out houses and offices, but in order to not waste precious time on taking care of them, we buy plastic plants. On our desktop nature is the number one wallpaper. In vacations we usually go to see other country’s big cities.

Can we call central park nature? No. because we arranged it exactly as we see fit. We planted the trees in a certain order and make sure they will grow exactly as we want to. We even cut them into different animals shapes and give them unnatural looks. People go to park to relax and connect with nature, but as long as it’s near home and it is comfortable. We impose our order on it because we are afraid of order in the wild nature.

Cherry blossomA very good example for “Cherry picking” comes from Japan. Japanese people admire the cherry blossom and even worship it. But in reality it is carefully constructed by humans. In parks they plant the same kind of cherry tree, the “Yoshino cherry” and make sure those trees all share the same DNA by cutting the stem of a single tree. This way most of the trees in the park will blossom at the same time. This kind of tree is a breed, made between the 18th and 19th centuries. So this amazing feat of nature is engineered by humans for humans to celebrate nature. (I saw it on Japanese Television).

Next post will be on Humanity conquering nature.

One thought on “Understanding Nature by “Cherry Picking” It.

  1. Pingback: Tokyo and Odaiba, the artificial island that defines not only Nature, but also Culture. | Humanities Do Matter

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