A View of Man - an essay by Dale Netherton

A View of Man
Dale Netherton

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When a person views the pristine, a question arises.  Here is a natural phenomena that has beauty and many admirers.  Yet the writers, with rare exception, speak of the beauty as if man the admirer and user is an unnecessary component in the equation. Why do these writers not see that without human appreciation, the wilderness grandeur would have no more significance than a cold stone?

The majority of wilderness writers decry the presence of man in a virgin territory.  Yet it is man who admires, maintains and glorifies.  Nature only evolves.  Man is decried as a despoiler yet it is man who denounces the actions that litters the landscape.  It is man that invented the canoe to access the crystal waters silently, built the protective fire-grates and captures with photography the views that cannot be duplicated.

Man qua man is not the defiler of beauty but the creator and disciple. There are the uncaring, but they are the unimportant, the incidental.  They do not maintain, they do not glorify and they do not speak for man.  Man who loves life and all the earth has to 
offer.  Just as man the builder enhances his surroundings for his comfort, enjoyment and survival; so too the man of admiration respects and recognizes the mutual value of what is and what he is.  He considers himself to be of this earth and recognizes what his rights are , what carelessness can damage and that denouncing his species includes himself and the good he is fostering.

There is no joy in feeling unworthy when viewing the sunset of a shimmering glassine horizon.  It must be seen by man to be enjoyed by man and it is not enough to know that it is, unless the verification can be accomplished and communicated.  Extinction by exclusion 
accomplishes the same result as extinction de facto.  One must experience the joy of “ this is worth living for” and “ I am worthy of enjoying it”. Tainted with a distaste for humanity for its discretions leaves enjoyment inoculated with a personal dissatisfaction that is unwarranted and unfair.  Seeing the rusted beer can should not trigger a feeling of mass guilt for  man because of the carelessness of litterbugs anymore than reading about criminals makes one a thug.

When you pull your canoe onto the sand that guards the campsite and you see a swept landscape with neatly piled firewood, carefully cooled coals and rocks meticulously placed for camaraderie and utility, do you take a moment to see the good of man or does the view 
strike you as an exception that is insignificant, incidental and unimportant?

The purity of the waters and the woods needs to be matched with the purity of soul that recognizes man is a component of nature, a part of this earth, a unique species that has the choice to glorify or horrify his surroundings and his fellow species.  Whether or not he 
sees the proper choices exercised, does not diminish his stature.  There is far more achievement that need recognition than sloppiness that warrants attention. It is right to cry foul in the wilderness just as it is justice on the street but the accent should be on the 
positive, the beautiful, the potential and the glorious...and this must include the species of man.  He is the only creature that can see and describe the personal feelings of solitude with nature. Such descriptions cancel all the vices of the lowly who treat beauty with  disregard and suffer the absence of the joy of appreciation.  One does not condemn natural beauty because of a few mosquitoes nor should careless humans be the focus when it is enjoyment we seek.

As the paddle sinks below the surface and the eyes lazily photograph the unrepeatable, think deeply of what magnificent homage is paid and what on earth can match it.  There is no equal.

Dale Netherton

copyright 2006 Dale Netherton  http://www.canoestories.com/netherton/essay1.htm

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