Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Nature Nature

Urban life is man-created nature--although one's tempted to call it artificial. But, in truth, it's no more artifical than the nature that now surrounds me here, in the Florida keys: palms, pines, pelicans; sand, sea, horseshoe crabs; herons, egrets, and the unfortunate portuguese man-of-war who'd sailded too close to our dock and had been caught by the ebb tide. The natural seems natural only thanks to our ignorance. The agencies that shaped and shape it are on average hidden from our view. Human intentions? Those we know. We may not always approve of them, but we are never fooled; we understand. By contrast we discern spontaneity in nature--technology in all that's human-made. But it's all technology--indeed technology of the highest sophistication and driven, as our own always also is, by narrowly focused utilitarian designs. Odd, then, isn't it? Odd that out here on the edges of the urban, with Nature-Nature so much more visble and present, a strange peace and exaltation spreads over the contemplating mind. Is it that when life's sustaining mechanisms and its driving intentions are much more hidden the inner aspect of it, that which makes life really life, becomes more visible?

The portuguese man-of-war? It is a hydrozoan, thus a small predatory creature related to and distant cousin to jelly fish and corals. It produces and holds above the surface of the sea the gas-filled balloon-like structure it uses as a sail to move from place to place.  It trails tentacles up to an astonishing 60 feet in length which, coming in contact with little fish, sting, paralyze, and kill them. The tendons also act to draw the "kill" up to the predator's ingestive regions where the victims then turn into fodder. The translucent, irridescent, blue-to-pink colors of this creature's sail above the water produce feelings of magic in the ignorant human viewer--but it's best to keep your distance lest you limp thence with severe chemical burns. Nature-Nature. The deep sighs are not the whole truth of our experience of it. They arise from the beholder's innocence. Sometimes its nice, indeed needful, to indulge in ignorance.

The image comes from Wikipedia's article (link).

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