I am drawn always to the presence and processes of Nature, seeking each day to notice the play of the living world. Yesterday was warm and sunny, a truly ecstatic, early spring-like day. The recent warmth and sun have melted back the snowbanks, and the ice on the lake is looking a bit slushy. We can finally walk on most of the sidewalks; perhaps we have truly turned the corner on winter! Perhaps this is indeed spring!
The West has long understood Indigenous people as close to Nature, or even, as Nature. This has meant that we are seen as primitive and childlike, as resources to be ruthlessly exploited, and as obstacles to the advancement of civilization, barriers which must be removed at any cost. We are also imagined to be pristine and moral, the holders of high human consciousness, and the voices of the land. There seems little room for us to be visceral, complex people.
Indigenous people have been assigned a role that becomes more marginal with each passing decade. A good many futurists say that soon humans will no longer need, nor even notice, Nature. They believe we are on the verge of becoming a new synthesis of machine and human, a being who will live for hundreds or thousands of years and utilize Nature only as a resource. What is unsaid is that the Indigenous problem would then be solved once and for all, Indigenosity left behind once and for all.
Given that I need a variety of mechanical and electronic devices to make my way through the world, I can see that is one pathway we, collectively, might indeed choose to follow. Would we then become lifeforms unlike any previously seen on Mother Earth, the post-human? This new form might live essentially forever, have no need of, or use for, other life forms, and be able to survive in the most hostile of environments. Realms of human experience such as birth, love, sexuality, the arts, illness, and death, would become irrelevant, and be left behind along with most reminders of our animal ancestry. I cannot help but wonder whether empathy and wonder, as well as the rest of the living world, might also be sacrificed.
Individuals and cultures periodically arrive at tipping points, places where the sum of our decisions results in a commitment to one lifeway or another. These junctures are fraught with ethical and spiritual challenges that may only become obvious to the majority of people in hindsight. I find myself wondering where, exactly, one crosses the boundary between human and something else.
I am also curious as to whether the dreams we follow, and share, may largely determine which paths we take. The dream of immortality and freedom from the demands, and pleasures, of the body is an old, very powerful, meme in human history. Might it blind us to the implications of our choices? Perhaps it is time to look carefully at that dreaming, to ask whether this road leads us to a place we really want to go.
Today the temperature is forecast to rise to near 50F, meaning the sap will be running in the maple trees, birds will be in full song, and fresh rivulets of snowmelt will appear in forest, field, and lawn, slowly making their way to the lake. Perhaps we will even smell the welcome fragrance of thawing earth. It is a good day to be human and alive.