Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mother Nature is Her Own Vagina

Now that I have your attention.

I was watching Nausicaa the other night with some friends, followed by Princess Mononoke. It's interesting to watch them one after the other, particularly Nausicaa first, because they both have the same theme: the reconciliation of Man and Nature. It's a difficult question and both Nausicaa and Mononoke-hime really do their best to show the best and worst of human nature coming to the fore.

It's clear that in both, human progress is shown as working against nature. It's quite remarkable how most of us make this assumption that progress is measured by how well we can control our environment and thus, nature. The problem with this, of course, s that nature retaliates. In Nausicaa, nature retaliates against the humans poisoning the ground by growing poisonous plants that take root in the bodies of large Ohmu, giant insects that have begun to roam the earth. Using the bodies of the Ohmu as fertilizer, the plants become forests, that are eventually called the Wastelands as humans cannot breathe in the spores that the plants release without dying.

Within Mononoke-hime, nature retaliates in the form of nature gods - the wolf god Moro, the boar gods Ottoko and Nago, and other beasts that safeguard the forests of the Shishigami (Deer god) do their best to discourage human beings from cutting down forests, and even if they do cut down forests, they try to re-grow the forests.

I particularly understood the depiction of nature gods in Mononoke-hime because it's very similar to the folklore I grew up with. Like with many other old pagan folk beliefs, in Malaysia, our forests are not just a collection of trees. They are the homes of spirits older and more ancient than humans. Among them are the leftover ghosts of past civlizations. In the ground lies our ancestors, who lie in peace until their rest is disturbed by rude visitors.

Humans make a big deal out of trying to control nature, really. We hew down trees to build houses that eventually crumble. We plant farms and use poison to destroy the bugs. We try to subjugate Mother Nature.

The plain fact is that we can totally die today and Mother Nature could totally get along just fine without us. Because the earth can cleanse itself. It just needs a few bacteria and it can regrow.

In Nausicaa, the forests of the Wasteland take in the poisons left in the soils after the Seven Days of Fire, and Nausicaa notices that the trees take in the poison, and process it, before rotting into what is essentially clean soil. When the so-called poisonous plants grow out of clean soil and water, they aren't poisonous at all.

Mononoke-hime doesn't have that though. The forests are guarded by spirits which are malevolent (like poisons) but they're not lacking compassion, as evidence by Moro taking in San as an infant child.

Neither forest, however, is against humans per se. Humans cutting down forests isn't a problem - it's when they do so indiscriminately without putting in the effort to replenish the forest after being done with it, is the biggest problem. You can cut down trees, but what are you going to give in return?

I've come to the conclusion that Tataraba, the iron forge town in Mononoke-hime, could have co-existed with the gods and the Shishigami's forest.

When I was growing up, my dad would take me hiking. He would tell me, before I took a pee, or if I wanted to take something from the forest, I had to ask permission first. I had to be aware that I was not part of the forest, and therefore was not part of the natural eco-system, and so, if I wanted to do something that's pretty much a natural biological function, I had to be careful and ask permission, because I was essentially pee-ing in someone else's house.

We're no longer used to thinking this way about the world, unfortunately. We erase whole forests in favour of creating new housing projects, without thinking about how that's going to affect the weather and local ecology.

If we keep taking away from Mother Nature like this, we shouldn't be surprised when She retaliates, namely by withholding her cleansing powers.

It's the lack of awe of the world that prevents us from working with nature. We assume it's there for our consumption, taking for granted that the earth will yield under our machines and our schedules, do what we want it to do. But it's not, and it's got to come to a head eventually.

Mother Nature is her own vagina. Our industrialization is the well-intentioned douche that is trying to improve things but instead, even while it clears away the bad, it also clears away the good, and that is the good which is necessary for the earth's continued health.

In Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues is one called "My Angry Vagina," which exhorts, "work with my vagina."

We should work with Mother Nature, not against her. Until we recognize this on a larger scale than small environmentalist groups, we're not going to get very far.

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