Man vs. Nature


Nature abhors a straight line. Natural things move and grow in fits and starts along complex paths, not straight from point to point. Tree branches and coastlines are jagged and bent. Tides move randomly leaving a labyrinth of puddles and pools.
Alternatively, wild animals live in harmony with their environment. They are perfectly adapted to their environment, but the law of the fittest is ever present. We humans can’t exist in nature’s environment without a complex set of solutions including shelter, consistent food supply, medical supplies, clothing, tools, and a means of locomotion. We have no choice but to gain control of our environment.

We have this fascination with linear perfection. It shows in the architecture of our buildings and in the shape of our gardens, geometric precision with every vertical plumb. Gravity will exploit any imperfection; consider the leaning Tower of Pisa which had to be fortified by steel cables and brackets.

We attempt to live and plan our lives with similar linear precision. As though life with all its variables could even be lived with precision. Academia is based on a highly structured hierarchical system of education and certification. Put in enough time and effort your reward is promotion to the next class, but life doesn’t lend itself to a straight ascending line. Far east philosophers refer to an individual’s life path as walking on a razor’s edge. It’s a path so narrow, akin to a razor’s edge; only one person can tread. To be in balance, we must stay on a narrow path; on either side are sheer cliffs. Stray from the path and you will fall.

Because of our technology and ability to control the environment, we think we are no longer bound by nature. We feel so empowered and so far, removed from nature that we have started to think of ourselves as demi-gods, the ultimate hubris. Quite willing to intercede, making wholesale changes to the ecosystem, including interrupting the flow rivers, drain swamps, move mountains, and seed clouds.

A man spotted a bison calf in mid-stream, seemingly stranded. So, he intervened, coming to its rescue, guiding it onto the other bank. Unfortunately, the bison calf stood alone ignored by the herd. Park rangers were notified. They repeatedly tried to reunite the calf with the herd, but because of human contact, it was rejected by the herd. Days later, the park staff had no other option but to euthanize it.

We work so hard at constructing our lives brick by brick, plumb and square. Unfortunately, life is far too complicated and random. Live life long enough and you soon realize it’s asymmetrical, unpredictable, and nothing like what we imagine it to be.  But there is another challenge? It comes from within, planted by nature.   We must match wits with our primitive, limbic part of the brain.  Each human comes complete with their own built in self-sabotaging primitive part of the brain.   Mankind has achieved enormous advances and we think that we have conquered nature, but nature knows better.

It will impose its final indignity. It’s called hormonal flip, a common occurrence among aging couples.  Hormones are powerful biological compounds; a billionth of gram has a great impact on human behavior and aging. As a couple ages, a man’s testosterone level declines while his estrogen and progesterone levels stay the same; alternatively, his spouse’s estrogen and progesterone levels decline while her testosterone output remains the same.   The husband becomes increasingly passive while the wife becomes increasingly dominant and the ultimate decision maker and so nature has the last laugh.