Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thinking Again--Our Legacy's Future

I’ve been working on the current issue of my literary journal for the outdoor sports media/industry, The Pines Review.” http://pinesreview.magcloud.com The assembly, production and final editing all went according to plan, although a bit late, but the distribution was somewhat stymied by a variety of data problems. The most troublesome was the loss of a significant portion of my reader data base. I’m getting it back together and entered into my computer and I hope that by the time the next issue goes out (May) most of the little problems will be solved and everything will run much smoother.

I’ve also had other issues to deal with, one has been getting a year older. That’s fine with me; I truly don’t mind the passing of time. I also really appreciate all the “Happy Birthday” notes I received, here, by email and snail mail. I look forward to the day when I “pass the outdoor torch” to my grandchildren and I can step aside to let them inherit the outdoors. But then I wondered to myself, “What will be there for them?” “Will we have lost the struggle to preserve our fishing and hunting heritage?”

When I grapple with any question I try to pin down what I am trying to dig out; an answer to a historical or scientific question, or I am looking into some philosophical point. My mind begins to focus and I begin my search and soon enough I find myself buried at my desk with books, notes, clips of essays and articles and a small mound of printouts from various online sources. I emerge from this plunge into the research of questions only for meals, chores and bed (usually late). When I am satisfied with my work I’ve usually got a new collection of thoughts written in my journals. Sometimes I write in my battered Moleskien™ journal that is now held together with duct tape. (It is nearly full.) (My daughter sent me a leather bound, hand-sewn journal that is targeted for specific notes.) On other occasions I type directly into my computer journal. (Years of this sort of research have given me a collection of notebooks of all sizes that are filled with that—notes and thoughts.) The notes I made from books, phone calls, and newspaper and magazine clippings are semi-arranged in a folder along with copies of email conversations on the subject, and then the folder is filed in one of my filing cabinets. The print-outs and full-length copies of articles and essays from magazines, journals and online sources are put in appropriately labeled three-ring binders. As for the books I used, either ones I already had in my library or that I purchased, now have notes in the margins, passages underlined and a flowering of brightly colored Post-It™ notes. Somehow, out of this mishmash of my research, something emerges that I want to write. Maybe it will be polished and finished or maybe it will form the basis of another essay or find its way into some other writing project. The point is that when I ask myself a question I then look for an answer—if one exists.

If you are interested in what emerged from several weeks of this sort of brain activity (When I wasn’t writing a book review, working on The Pines Review, or on my next book.)—read on. You might find it thought provoking—or monumentally boring!

Thoughts on The Hunter’s Relationship to Nature’s “Why?” Question

We are all locked, I believe, in ideological warfare between two prime philosophical camps; one is rooted in the philosophy of “Man The Hunter” The other is rooted in the philosophy of “Man The Scavenger.”

I think in the most basic sense all of us are truly aware of this ideological struggle. It is commonly found in the rhetoric of Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the HSUS, whose philosophy is a child of Peter Singer’s utilitarian philosophy of equalizing all species. The HSUS, Animal Liberation Front, PETA and others that have sworn to have hunting (and fishing) banned, when they are candled, are found to be flawed. They are flawed in their premise (the white), their argument (the yoke) and their conclusions (the shell). People believe them because it is comfortable to believe that a harmonious, perfect world can be created by willing its existence. To do so they believe banning activities that are the fundamental prescription for human health and survival, and have been for millions of years, will re-define what is human and thus re-define what is nature.

Consider Ardipithecus ramidus, a recently discovered humanoid fossil that has been forcing a radical change in the belief that Lucy was the oldest human fossil. Neither Lucy nor Adri existed outside of their nature. If either of these pieces of evolutionary evidence was not providing researchers a closer, more defining understanding of the truth of humans within nature then Pacelle and his followers might find a more solid claim to our having evolved beyond hunting.
Our relationship to nature is more evolutionary complex than a statement of a collective “need” to define being human. Our relationship is deeply intertwined with a spiritual relationship that is identified by Dr. Eaton in his books--our relationship is defined by God, thus nature. There is nothing in the Pacelle/Singer/Regan writings that can define or give comprehension to that time when early humans emerged from the wilderness of simple survival to the dawn of questions and stood, clothed in fur, with a simple spear in hand and formed in their minds the two questions that drive humanity forward. “Why?” and “How?” Why is answered by God and nature while the “How?” is that which humans have been driven to answer.

“How?” is the question that has driven humans forward since the very dawn of cognitive thought emerged from instinct. How to be warm? How to find food to maintain life? How to protect the family from predators? The list is infinite.

Surrounding each individual since that dawn has been both the question and the answer to “Why?” which has always been “Because the universe is so.” And, if God made the universe then it is because God made it so. In this debate, whether one believes God is the maker of all, or the universe is all evolution’s product after the bang, the indisputable fact remains that humans are within nature and nature within humans. Hunting is within nature, hence within humans. Defining and understanding all of the variables of that truth is the study of “Why?”

Every value of “Why?” within that truth of nature serves to define each object that exists but no value can exist when an object being defined is removed from nature. When any object, animate or inanimate, is removed from nature it cannot be spiritual, it cannot possess good or bad, it can only exist without any relationship to define it--including a relationship to (with) God. I believe that removal is the failure of the anti-hunter philosophers, whether Singer, Pacelle, Steve Best or Tom Regan, and the others. For their arguments to be valid humans must be removed from nature but humans that are outside of nature cannot be spiritual, cannot be close to God, cannot have true relationships with others—which includes all things and actions, because it is only within nature that things exist and know each other. A proof of this is in the opening of a virtual universe. Before any virtual object can exist the virtual universe must be created and then from outside that virtual universe an object is created within that universe and it must grow and change—it evolves within its nature and all objects that it interacts with must also exist within that virtual nature or they cannot exist at all. If that object is given the virtual gene to hunt, as is common in RPGs, that object cannot deny it is a hunter.

Whenever I have read an argument against hunting, regardless of the basis for that argument, when I candle the argument against known truths the argument is always flawed. I do not maintain that every pro hunting argument is flawless—usually when the argument is dramatic for the sake of drama it will collapse of its own lack of supporting truths.

When I consider the inheritance I will leave behind I realize it must be a legacy of our standing firm against the philosophies that want us outside nature, because if we acquiesce to those philosophies we have placed limits on our survival. Humanity cannot maintain itself if it is outside of nature because it is, itself, of nature.

What do you think? Really!



NorCal Cazadora said...

I agree - to an extent - with your believe that removal from nature is the fatal flaw of the anti-hunting arguments. I think that reflects our ongoing schizophrenia about our own nature: Most of us recognize that our attempts to improve on nature are responsible for much of our destruction of nature, but we can't seem to stop seeking solutions outside of nature.

But I'm not sure I agree that we can't be spiritual in the removed-from-nature state. I think a person locked in a high-rise can find spirituality. I just think any spirituality that's rooted in such an unstable system is vulnerable to collapse. It might sound like I'm contradicting myself, but I'm just not comfortable denying the existence of authentic spiritual experience outside of the realm where I've found my spirituality.

Galen Geer said...

Ahh, great! You caught an error on my part. I hadn’t considered the high rise existence. I too don’t believe you step outside of nature when you live in a high rise. Nature exists and cannot be bounded by borders. Nature does not cease to exist at the city limits. For a person to be connected spiritually to nature there is no need return to a wild places and fondle the leaves and ferns. It is through the acknowledgement that nature exists and its influence on us is an envelope that contains us in any environment that allows us to experience that spirituality. I don’t believe that this state of a person’s self necessarily requires they be immersed in fishing or hunting—a person’s acknowledgement that others who fish and hunt are part of nature and that nature is within them establishes the link between them and nature. By extension, a person who chooses to separate themselves from nature that includes the angler or hunter actually separates themselves from that spiritual existence between the self and nature—even though they are surrounded by nature. Nature cannot be split into the nice and not-so-nice. Just because I don’t like the fact that squirrels rob bird nests does not mean I can will away the squirrels. Each exists; nothing about it can be changed. Even if I move the nests or kill the squirrels, all I have accomplished is changing the ecology of that patch of earth and nature will immediately begin to adjust to whatever I did. If I move to a high rise to escape the squirrel’s predation on the bird nests I have changed nothing but removed myself from that place within nature and even though I will maintain that the squirrels are wrong nature continues to exist, the proof is the spider web in the corner. 

Tovar Cerulli said...

Good points, Holly and Galen.

When I lived in Brooklyn, I did feel disconnected from nature in certain ways. I longed to be back in the country.

Yet there were still squirrels, birds, and trees around me, even in the ciy. And I still knew I was "part of nature," though at the time my vision did not accept human predation as part of the equation. Thankfully, things (and people) do sometimes change!

Galen Geer said...

Trevor and Holly, and Chas if you are around.
Can a person in a prison cell be in nature?
My answer is "yes" and the same is true for any other person in any place at any time.
Agree? Disagree?

Holly, I popped over, read some more comments and I'll make one this evening. Loved the one from HH.

NorCal Cazadora said...

I think that would have to depend on your definition of nature. A prison cell strikes me as a purely artificial environment, and as such, I'd have to say my answer is no. But I'm interested in hearing how you arrive at "yes."

Tovar Cerulli said...

I think it also depends on your definition of "in" nature.

"Connected to" nature? "Part of" nature? Sure, you always are, no matter what.

Whether you feel it or not depends on who you are. Some people don't even feel it in the woods, I wager; others feel it even in a prison cell. A lot of us, though, are going to feel disconnected if we're locked away and can't ever touch the earth.

Or, as Holly sort of suggested, if you define nature as "everything that comes from or exists on the earth"...well, then, you're never "outside" it.

How are you coming at this one, Galen?

Galen Geer said...

Trevor and Holly, I think you both are very close. In fact, I think we are all in the same thought pattern with just slightly different viewpoints. But here is mine: I believe that a person being in nature and having nature within them is the mind. I have had hunters in my hunting camp who had no connection to nature, and other hunters who could feel the wildlife around them, even in their sleep. From all of this, as well as other experiences, I believe that nature is truly a state of mind. In reading some accounts of POWs in VN, Korea and even WWII, I am always surprised how often they talked about being able to place themselves in places with trees, water, and so forth. They "knew" such places existed outside the cell and in their minds could bring them into the cell and when they did the cell, no matter how oppresive, was less confining and they began to see physical things in their cell that were differences, just as nature has differences. I have yet to read an account where they were not outdoorsy people.
Our minds both contain us and let us expand. Whenever I've met and tried to deal with a hard core anti-hunter (I am not talking about vegans, non-hunters, or those groups, but the PETA and other ilk) they were not able to visualize nature as alive in their mind.
Years ago, around 2000 or 01 I spent a great deal of time on the phone with an anti-hunter and member of CASH, (who also provided me with details about the operations of the groups), and he told me that he would never condone hunting but he envied the ablity of some hunters to be so much in the outdoors. He admitted that he couldn't do it.
I wonder if (and I am not being cute here) the truly hard core antis such as Pacelle and Ingrid are actually lacking something in their genetic construction? glg

NorCal Cazadora said...

OK, I see where you're coming from and agree with your position on this.

I think you're completely right about the hardcore antis. Ever read a profile of Pacelle? He doesn't really even like animals. James Swan wrote that many of the vegans he'd met were in therapy, which I thought was unkind, until I started catching on to the fact that many of the vegans I've dealt with in hunting debates are also in therapy or suffering from some traumas.

I don't think any of the hardcore antis could be nature lovers, because how could you have even passing familiarity with nature and fail to understand the cycle of life? This is a breed of people who want us to evolve beyond nature - who already believe we are not a part of it. So yes, I'd say they're extremely nature deficient.

Well, many of them. The vegan who comments on my blog all the time, Hutch, is a wildlife rehabber who says he spends lots of time in nature, so he may be an exception. But he's not rabid either. Just a concerned soul who disagrees with what I do.

I could say more, but dang, I've got a lot of grading to do.

Tovar Cerulli said...

I thought that the section on Pacelle at the end of Kerasote's *Bloodties* was particularly interesting, including how he doesn't really like animals.

I appreciate the clear distinctions you're both making, between "hardcore antis" who do essentially want us to "evolve beyond nature" and other folks who object to hunting.

Some of the latter--like Hutch and like the vegan I used to be--are definitely nature lovers. I think it's definitely worth it to talk with them.

Discounting vegans as merely traumatized does nothing more than alienate potential allies. (I guess that was part of the point of my recent "Hunters and other whackos" post.) If (and I do mean IF) more vegans than non-vegans are in therapy, that doesn't mean there's a causal relationship. They might simply travel in circles where therapy is seen as a useful way of dealing with life.

Eric C. Nuse said...

The comment concerning can you be part of nature ina prison cell reminded me of an excellent hunting books, "Tales of a Rat Hunting Man", by D. Brian Plummer. I describes the hunting culture of rat hunters in England that use ferrets and terriers to follow there sport. Plummer, a high school teacher, gets pulled in with some real Dickenson charactors that reminded me of hunters I know up here in the Green Mountains. If you changed the object of their hunt from rats to grouse it would sound just like other well written hunting books.
My point is although severely compromised, I think you can find nature (and some form of hunting) in places like a garbage dumb and a prison cell.

Galen Geer said...

Eric, I "think" I remember that book. Years ago I read a book about rat hunting in the UK. I read it while sitting in a stuffy hunting hide over a waterhole in South Africa. That was, I read it between naps. I'm sure some great trophy animals came to drink while I was sleeping, I know they did while I was reading. I never mastered the art of putting down my book and picking up my rifle (or bow, depending on my mood for the day) and getting off a shot. I think it was, in part, I am really not in the mood for killing anything today. But I read some great books. Did you ever read "The Poacher's Tale" by chance? glg