Sunday, April 03, 2011

in the garden of good and evil

Morning is a time for light and shadow in my garden.

As mysterious as the garden is at night, it is at its best as a creature of the day.  Especially the morning.

I am a creature of both.  I prowl until 2 in the morning and then get up around 7.  The candle quickly grows short with that schedule.

The garden knows nothing of such behavior.  It merely is.

In our more sentimental moods, humans like to project our own Jekyll and Hyde concepts on nature.  It makes us feel liberal and benevolent.  Especially when we side with the prey over the predator.

And the dark does hold dangerous predators -- of all sizes.  Violence.  Sin.  Creatures die with terrible shrieks in the loneliness of the night.

But the light is filled with butterflies.  Hummingbirds.  Enticed by nectared flowers that appeal equally to human and beast.

Manichaeism come to life in my back yard.

But that is how children think about life.  And that is rank reductionism.

It is easy to get stuck in that Weltanschauung with the cow's breath summer breeze cooling me in my hammock.  It is all there.  The sun.  The birds.  The flowers.

It is always good to remember, though, that just as certain as there will be another Adam Sandler movie, every Eden has a serpent.

This morning (or yesterday in blog saving time), I watched one of the little garden lizards zag through the purple queen in search of some unwary insect.  The lizards pay me little heed.  Probably because my movements seem glacial to them.

That was probably its undoing.  Lizards are rather low on the food chain.  And this fellow discovered that to his cost.

In a rush of feathers, a bird was on him.  A false catch.  Another strike.  A couple of tosses in the air, and it was over.  The predator escaped with the prey.

The victor?  A male house sparrow.  It was almost as incongruous as Don Knotts wrestling an anaconda.

But the sparrow was as effective a predator as any leopard.  And the lizard was just as dead as any taken gazelle.

The garden is free of good and evil.  Amorality reigns.

We humans are the moral agents.  It is our actions that require the choice of doing good or evil.

And the best I can do, as Voltaire advised, is not to rest, but to cultivate my garden -- and let it grow.


ANM said...

Well, Dr. Pangloss, I congratulate you on your philosophical musings this morning. But most of all, I applaud you for your deft avoidance of theodicy. As you well know, not every believer in the Creator's design opted for the I'll-just-take-another-siesta-in-the-hammock-under-the-mango-tree and listen to the lazy murmur of early spring motion in the garden. No, for some 18th century thinkers who believed in God-the-Designer-of-the-whole-Enchilada, there was an issue of theodicy to be confronted, and not skirted by the pendulumic mantra of the hammock.

To wit: the fruit wasp and her procreational habits -- one of the more disquieting facts of nature for those 18th century thinkers (see Stephen Jay Gould, Hens Teeth and Horse's Toes). And they had reason to be disturbed by the logic installed within shiny shell.

The female fruit wasp would find a cute, fuzzy, caterpillar in which to store her fertilized eggs. Alien-style, as the little fruit wasps began to mature into hungry little larvae, they would feast on the insides of Fuzzy Wuzzy, saving the vital organs until last, when they would then emerge full-developed from Fuzzy's dessicated mortal shell. This absolutely horrified the old boys. I can't say I'm too keen on it either, but for reasons completely non-theological. I mean, imagine trying to have a social life and being at dinner and all that gurgling and crunching going on inside one's abdominal cavity. It's just not done.

I'm not exactly accusing you of willful intellectual neglect for not discussing this issue. I'm just suggesting that you may have given your garden a too easy once over.


Steve Cotton said...

And we all know why the fruit wasp argument is nonsense. It is based on a false proposition -- primarily because it suffers from the fallacy of perspective.

It is true that we humans have a tendency to sentamentalize nature. And the richer we become, our Disneyization becomes more thorough. We (at least, I do) like to pretend our dogs and cats have feelings -- when what they have is an incredible ability to manipulate our neuroses. Anyone who thinks that man domesticated dogs has not paid much attention to dogs.

And I love indulging my own sentimentality with my pets. Professor Jiggs had me wrapped around his four paws.

But, to your point. I doubt I gave my garden "a too easy once over." I simply did not want to indulge in my Victorian emotional flaws.