29 Oct The Great Idea of Nature
“When we say that something is “natural” we have certain attributes in mind. Natural speaks of purity, of goodness, of some untouched essence that is almost transcendent in its beauty and power. Inherent in this view of Nature, is that Nature is something inherent, “meant to be,” authentic while, on the other hand, that which comes from humans is artificial. So, one of the first questions to ponder as we approach the Great Idea of nature is this: Does human intervention make Nature “unnatural?” Is the Natural world, without human intervention, more pure or true?
Another framework from which to view Nature is the way the Romantics—sensing that the ascend of science and technology in the Age of Industry would forever alter our relationship to Nature—see Nature as, above all else, sublime—immensely powerful, able to destroy and infinitely more potent than humans. By reconfiguring Nature not as a resource for human consumption, or a wildness to be manhandled, controlled and utilized for progress or profit, the Romantic conception of Nature inverts what some of us think of Nature today—several hundred years into a vast industrialization project—as weak and vulnerable to the machinations of humans and their technological inventions. The sublime or transcendental view of Nature often accentuates the destructive powers, beautiful and divine, and entirely above humans. In this view, it is not Nature that needs to be protected from humans, it is the humans that need to be protected from Nature.
Finally, the resources and syntopical questions of this chapter consider the ways that Nature, and a pontification of its origin, power, purpose and order (or beautiful disorder and wildness), can serve as a source for artistic creativity: as the perfect metaphor for literature, the perfect composition for a painting, the perfect subject for poetry, the perfect analogy for religious teaching.”