It is the most sobering of realities that the further from humanity I step into the palm of nature, the more I am aware of humanity’s tragic state.
When I am in the towns and villages, and even more when I am on city streets, it is not difficult to look for and even find value, and without much difficulty or distraction. From the city parks where children play, from the new skyscrapers saving space and housing homeless, from the missions feeding the hungry, from the colleges and universities professing that perpetual discourse, from the street artists given the chance to shine, from the monuments reminding of heroes and saviors, from the church cross, the mosque dome, the temple star, the marches and parades and processions, hope exists and again and always chisels away at apathy, at lethargy. We see it just by looking around.
But then I step away and, from some distance, witness what simmers across humanity’s horizon. Defensiveness shifts to aggression, diplomacy turns toward ridicule, compassion is swallowed by greed, and understanding is absorbed by narrow-mindedness. Insignificant fissures when seen from a distance seem massive crevices no longer navigable. I step into the wilderness and turn back from where I walk and see little more than a conglomerate of desperate attempts to win without compromise. John Nash wrote that we must do what’s right for ourselves only if everyone else benefits, or we are destined toward demise. The voices of the Mother Theresa’s and Albert Schweitzer’s and Martin Luther King’s of this world are suffocating beneath the rising wave of ridicule, resentment, and retribution. We must help others not because of who they are but because of who we are. But from this vantage outside the city gates, winning is no longer defined as progress to benefit humanity, but the defeat of another. It seems the idea that someone must lose in order that one win has shrouded the reality about our species: we are tethered by truth. The progress of one is wholly and unequivocally dependent upon the progress of every one.
So I prefer nature. Its truths are absolute. It relies upon respect, it has no subjective approach, and it shows no favoritism. Its instinctive bend is respect.
I am not smart enough to understand the causes of a crumbling society, and I have not nearly the ability to keep pace with comprehending the effects of racism, ridicule, greed, and power. But from this view in the wilderness, society is slipping away from any ideal it may have once pursued, and the climb back is not easily traversed. Then I turn toward the waters and wild lands still unblemished by the body politic, and I have that hope again that there is balance, that some guardrail of reason will keep us from straying too far.