Posted by: paulbassler | February 19, 2013

Are We a Part of Nature

The American Heritage Dictionary defines nature in a number of ways, including: (1) The world of living things and the outdoors: the beauties of nature. (2) A primitive state of existence, untouched and uninfluenced by civilization or artificiality. There appears to be a conflict between these definitions. If nature is the world of living things and is a primitive state of existence, untouched and uninfluenced by civilization, then what is mankind? Are we a part of nature or is nature that which is untouched and uninfluenced by man?
I think for most of us, things that are natural are things that exist and are sustained without the assistance of man. When advertisers tell us that the ingredients in their new drink are completely natural, they are implying that the product was not made in a lab, is not man-made. When seeds grow into plants, a lion kills and eats a deer, a shooting star streaks across the night sky, we define these as natural events, untouched and uninfluenced by mankind. Nature, as a whole, is self-sustaining, though some natural events can be very destructive. The ice age, which destroyed life on earth as it was at the time, was very destructive, though life itself did survive.
One thing that seems to set mankind apart from all other aspects of nature is our ability to choose. We can be self-sustaining or we can choose to be self-destructive. Since we were born with that ability to choose, does that mean that man’s ability to choose is a part of universal nature? If the nature of mankind is a part of universal nature, then the self-sustainability of nature is a choice, not a given. Mankind can choose to put too many toxins in our soil, robbing it of its natural ability to grow plants. Mankind can choose to pollute our rivers and lakes making them incapable of sustaining aquatic life. Mankind can choose to be a destructive force on nature, a preserver of nature, or even a partner to nature. When scientists alter the genetics within seeds in order to produce bigger fruit, it could be said we are partnering with nature, though many are not convinced that meddling with genetics is healthy or wise. When farmers use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in order to help make their crops grow bigger and faster they are actually doing an injustice to the nature of the soil, as over time the soil loses its ability to grow anything. At times mankind believes they can do nature better than nature. Stupidity at best, arrogance at worst.
If the nature of nature is its innate ability to sustain itself, then man can choose to be “unnatural,” at least at the universal level. Some would say that it is mankind’s nature to be destructive, to wage war, to put his own interests above others. They say it is mankind’s nature to be selfish. Yet there are those who choose peace over war, compassion over vindictiveness, the health and safety of others over themselves. So what is man’s true nature? In fact, man can choose his nature. He can choose to put universal nature above his own or destroy nature for his own self interest.
Is it a part of human nature for men and women to be physically attracted to others of the same sex? Is it human nature for a woman to seek an abortion to stop an unwanted pregnancy? Is it human nature to kill someone who has taken the life of another? Inasmuch as mankind can choose his own nature the bigger questions are: Can you be happy in a world that accepts homosexuality, abortion or capital punishment? What kind of a world do you want to live in? Unlike all the other parts of nature, mankind is the creator of his nature, of his own reality.
Since we seem to have the power to choose our own nature, is it possible to use universal nature to guide our choices? What can we learn from universal nature to help us make better choices for ourselves or our society. As mentioned, universal nature is self-sustaining. With that in mind, are the choices you have made in your life leading toward the sustainability of your life and the life of society? Have the choices our nation has made led to our nation’s ability to sustain itself, and have our choices help lead to the sustainability of all nations? Is your life experience working as nature works, or have your choices led you to unhappy endings? How about our decisions on a national level? Have they led to a more stable world?
I believe, in the end, our own inner nature is a part of universal nature and if we listen to our inner selves we will make choices that work. It’s when we make choices based on self interest, not taking into account the impact those choices may have on others, we find ourselves making unnatural choices, which often leads to undesired consequences. In short, in order for us to be a part of nature, we have to choose to be. If we do choose the nature of our inner selves, the world of man will begin to reflect the universal nature that sustains us.

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