Response to Red

This week’s book was an interesting change of pace. It was a compilation of essays, anecdotes, and poems containing indigenous knowledge of the Anasazi American Indians. In Terry Williams’ compilation Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert, the idea of nature as a continuous force, which will change and adapt if left relatively unhindered, was important. This gave the implication of respect and passivity towards aspects wilderness.
The most important idea I pulled from her book, which seems to be along the line of other materials we have read in class, was the ignored paradoxes that exist in American (Western-capitalist) culture, in terms of our collective attitude toward wilderness. Concurrent with our political tendency to “have our cake, and eat it too,” we, as Americans, are impelled to respectfully romanticize wilderness, especially the “American West.” Yet, along with this “respect,” we exploit wilderness, the very thing we romantically cherish, for economic gain. These are two cultural ideologies which are clearly apparent in American culture, historically and presently, that exist together yet opposingly. Evidence can be uncovered if we look closely at popular culture from the past and present. The gold rush for example, was partially driven by economic gain, but also centrally driven by the freedom and wilderness characterizing the West.
We often take for granted these ideologies. Hidden in stories, poems, and visual art works, these views unwittingly shape popular opinion on many issues. One thing that is so daunting about ideologies is that peoples, in whom they are ingrained, claim that they cannot be changed or refuse to acknowledge their existence. This, in the acquisition knowledge, is the method of tenacity, which can and has lead to some of the darkest, most backward periods in human history (i.e. the dark ages). It is based on the acceptance of knowledge merely because it has been believed to be true for so long.
With issues and cognitively dissonant as these, we tend to hide them away, rather than confront them. We do not like change yet strive for it through hope. Our current model of living, and all the unsolvable byproducts it produces, requires change and adaptation if it is to remain functional. Yet we, as a populous, deny this need to change at the same time. We hope one thing and do another. The contradicting dualities that exist in Western culture are endless and troubling. Change is hard to hope for because of how unlikely we are to see it in our life-times (due to our political model, and the need to maintain stability.) But hope is something that can be passed along from generation-to-generation. If we pass this hope along with a proper dose of unfiltered knowledge there is good possibility of passing the diverse plethora of life we are inextricably connected with and dependent upon.
As a disclaimer, this is not to say that I as a reader am above this criticism I am citing. I, as I am sure many of us are, am hypocritical in terms of criticizing American ideologies. While the ideas I write in these essays can be harshly critical, I am ultimately being critical of myself. I, as well as many other Americans, uphold the freedom to say one thing and do another. While it is not chivalrous, or noble, it is real. Nature and the continuous flow of life in not pretty or gentle, while there may be aspects of beauty, the power of an ecosystem lies in the constantly flow of the dead. While I feel it is dangerous to use lofty romantic language in discussing the environment, language can evoke sublime feelings we hope to experience. These feelings cannot to be put into a word. Thus they must be evoked in symbolic language. We put too much value in words, although they are extremely powerful to us abstract thinkers, they are not real. Rather they represent something real, and can evoke real feelings. Yet inherently, words themselves are not real. The feeling of sublime in nature is real, and thus should be valued and strived to be experienced in person. Yet we are addicted to short cuts, which I believe we are becoming aware of, in terms of their detriment, as we noticing with many other unhealthy things. These shortcuts, if use us not changed, will collectively lead us to our ultimate shortcut, the destruction of Earth.

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