The other day I was killing time on tumblr like normal when ran across an image that found strikingly beautiful and slightly interesting but kept scrolling. For some reason was still thinking about it several hours later enough to go back and try to find it again. (If you are familiar with tumblr, then you know just how easy it is to forget an image since so many can be viewed in such a short span of time.) Once realized it was not going to be easily forgotten, it got me to wondering why it struck such a strong cord. It was because the image had reminded me about the things was pondering while the class was discussing Durand’s work, Progress The Advance of Civilization (see below).
When we were discussing the image, the part in the lower left corner where the ‘savages’ are was the most beautiful. Not for the talent behind the painting or anything art related but because it showcased how nature does not want to be tamed. It wants to be free to reclaim what originally was its property before humans took hold. I feel that part of the reason behind human development of the land to the point of making it a necessity for National parks to be required, is our fear of not knowing exactly what is out there. The wilderness is nothing but a huge mass of scary unknown whereas we want it to fit in this pretty little box and play nice when we venture into it. The National parks give us a sense of that in a way.
The places that have been chosen as National parks are strikingly beautiful that we know what is there and are not afraid of for the most part. Almost every inch explored. They make us feel small and in awe at the same time unlike most of our daily lives. We even dedicated the land they are on to being preserved to keep them and then gave them boundaries. (It is a bit like when you give a toddler a colouring book and tell them not to colour outside the lines, but with nature.) But what if we did not try to contain them? Have you ever thought about what our National parks would look like if left to their own devices spilling out of their neatly manicured edges? Would they overgrow and become the terrifying unknown from Westward expansion? While I do not have any set opinions of this, do find it to be interesting to ponder.
Fairly certain this is an image of an artist installation piece but tumblr is not a trusted source, nor did the image say what it was. Having the manicured grass around and inside the car with the city scape visible behind it is oddly inline with how I think of the parks. A small bit of ‘wilderness’ but not too far from the safety of society to really take us out of that comfort zone. Is that really what the National parks are really about though? Is safety and comfort what we are trying to preserve or is it actually the wilderness we want? I personally am much more of a fan of the wilderness idea. The idea that there is some place that is still untouched and free to be as it is without human manipulation. (Maybe that is the truest form of a Utopia but we were too afraid of the unknown to realize it?)
Could part of the draw to these remote locations in what we consider to be wilderness be that we are in need of being free ourselves while experiencing a desire to have a small taste of that fear our ancestors fought so hard to eradicate? I think it may be to a certain degree. We have removed so much of our natural state of the the Earth that parks are really the only thing we have left to see what it is like to be free. I’m not referring to free as political or religious freedom but free in the sense that birds are. We do not know that sense of freedom as human since we have to pay for shelter and food where the wilderness provides that to the creatures living in it.
All of this has been slightly confusing ramblings of half baked ideas from a car in need of mowing but maybe thats the place where great ideas and notions spur from. Or maybe I just daydream far too much.