Modern humans are pretty cool. We are sentient and we have consciousness. That’s tight. We have opposable thumbs that help us build complex structures. That’s dope. We climb trees and rocks and swim in lakes and oceans that our bodies aren’t evolved for. Pretty sweet.
Through years of practice, we accomplish athletic feats that have nothing to do with survival, constantly breaking our own records. We have created thousands of verbal and written languages with many more thousands of words to help us communicate an infinite arrangement of thoughts from the smallest quip to the deep and abstruse.
We’ve built cities that scrape the skies and tunnels that carry trains and cars below the earth. We send 8 million people soaring 6 miles above the surface of the earth every day. We’ve sent astronauts to the moon, 238,900 miles away. We have 2,271 satellites orbiting our planet, imaging and measuring and tracking and relaying gobs of information around the globe. In 400 years, we’ve gone from believing the world is flat to sending a rover to Mars, discovering dark matter, and accelerating particles around a 27-kilometer ring of superconducting magnets at close to the speed of light to explore theories in particle physics.
We can think critically and analyze and problem solve and engineer and mediate and entertain and connect dots and make intuitive leaps and hug and laugh and cry and hate and fight and make up and everywhere in between.
What a miraculous and unlikely occurrence we are amidst the endless array of cosmic chaos!
But, we’re also exceedingly arrogant, presumptuous, prideful, and have a wildly distorted perception of our own self- and collective-importance. Of all the egregious crimes of arrogance we commit, one of the most devastatingly depressing is our general disrespect for nature and how much it totally owns us. We play by its rules, not the other way around. And still we insist upon reaping havoc and destruction in whatever way best spurs our own contrived sense of progress.
As a civilization, we need to step down off our high horse and show some damn respect for this massive rock floating in space from which we originate, to which we owe our whole existence, and from which spring the intricate natural systems that, bereft of, our biosphere, and subsequently our civilization, would collapse entirely.
So, to help you in your path of repentance, here are 7 random ways nature totally owns us.
Too soon? I know, hitting you right out the gates with some heavy stuff. And you thought this was light-hearted! Morbidity not your thing? Well, too bad, because our repressed society hides from death like the plague and we need to straighten this shit out.
At some point, you will be gone. Everyone you know will be gone. Every person you’ve read about in history books, from the magnanimous to the tyrannical, the genius to the average, the successful to the struggling, the oppressor to the oppressed — everyone you inspire to be or emulate or live up to or outshine or denigrate or vilify — is already, or will soon be, all gone. Everyone who makes you feel amazing, lifts you up, and gives you purpose — and everyone who has ever made you feel terrible about yourself, pushed you down, and stripped you of positivity — will all someday be gone. No one has yet escaped this inevitable truth.
Our decline is written into our DNA. The longer we try to ignore that — the more we run from its certain grip — the more we run from ourselves and our full, self-actualized, animated expression.
Too many lives not fully lived. Too many spirits flagging from apathy and passivity. To all the uninspired and jaded out there: you have one life, finite and beautiful. One day, nature is going to totally own you and there’s nothing you can do about it. Show some courage, friend! Jump up and own life before nature owns you!
Hurricanes totally kick our ass in terrible ways. Just last Wednesday I was flying out of Charleston, SC as Hurricane Matthew was tearing up the Atlantic Coast. About 2 million people in South Carolina and Florida were urged to evacuate and by Thursday night tens of thousands of homes and businesses were without power. It reached a peak of sustained winds at 160 miles per hour. Nine hundred people in Haiti and 33 in the U.S. have died, and many more thousands are in need of aid and housing. We lose our lives, our homes, our livelihoods, and our businesses to hurricanes every year worldwide. Try to stop a 160-mile-per-hour windstorm hundreds of miles wide. You can’t do it.
- Flight Duration
Just a tad more trivial, but check this: when you fly from Boston to San Francisco, your direct flight is 6.5 hours. Your return flight from San Francisco to Boston is only 5.5 hours. Have you ever considered why? It’s because our jet stream goes hurtling from west to east at 100 mph, 6 miles high, serving either to propel your winged metal tube even quicker toward your fate of guzzling Sam Adams and deliriously chanting for the Red Sox in [insert Irish surname]’s pub in the ole Beantown or to hamper your progress to leather-strapped, erotic public floggings at Folsom Street Fair in SF under a malevolent bed of fog.
Jet streams are caused by solar radiation that heats large swaths of air, generating large-scale circulation cells in the sky. These giant rotating masses of air are further impelled by the Coriolis force exhibited by the earth’s rotation. The sun hits the earth with 174,000 terawatts (TW) of power, while our average global energy need in 2012, for all 7 billion strong, was a mere 18 TW. The earth weighs 5.9736 x 1024 kg and, at the equator, spins at 1,000 miles per hour.
The sun is enormous and we are not. The earth is enormous and we are not. They produce energy and forces we can’t even begin to comprehend producing.
So while you’re soaring above the world, looking down upon monumental mountains, ancient forests, and roaring rivers appearing small as rodents to you, sipping wine and grinning smugly at your opulence relative to squirrels and bears and birds, just remember your cute flying machine is slowed significantly by the thin, ephemeral air we breath in much the same manner as a tiny bird headed upwind. You are small as a tick to our mammoth earth, hardly a whisper of sand to our colossal sun, and a long-forgotten footnote to our solar system.
Though it only kills a handful of people in the United States every year, rabies has the power to absolutely ruin us. It is a viral disease of mammals spread through the saliva of an infected individual, typically through bites or scratches. The virus affects the central nervous system, causing disease in the brain and, if left untreated, ultimately death. It takes anywhere within the range of 10 or so days to a couple weeks from infection to the day you start experiencing symptoms. It is critical to receive treatment before you start to experience symptoms because, once you reach that threshold, death is almost certain.
Wealth will not save you. Privilege and connections and bay view summer homes will not save you. Business magnates, politicians, artists, and musicians will not dig you out of this hole. Versace leather jackets, Gucci handbags, a Porsche Boxster, and a Rolex will not inoculate you. Praying and begging will do nothing. All the antidotes in the world, all the herbs, all the Emergen-C, all the Tylenol and ibuprofen, all the steroids, all the rum and whiskey and painkillers, all the drugs and hallucinogens and laughing gas, all the wisdom and poetry and courage, all the hugs and kisses and smiles and sex and love will not wipe away your destiny.
And being poor, underprivileged, black or brown, a woman, queer, short, fat, Muslim, displaced, oppressed, hunted, excluded, disregarded, or disbelieved will, in one of the rare occurrences where this is the case in our deeply prejudiced world, not disadvantage you. Once the virus has taken hold, we are all the perfect meat-medium through which this menace will tear. This perilous beast knows no prejudice. Manifest Destiny becomes manifest rest in peace.
Before you die, you either experience all the terrifying symptoms of becoming a zombie, or your body shuts down into a state of paralysis. In the former scenario — the “furious rabies,” which is 70% of all rabies cases — you will become hyperactive, excited, and hydrophobic, while experiencing cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion, and agitation. As this state progresses, your symptoms may devolve into delirium, hallucinations, and insomnia. Picture 28 Days Later.
In the latter scenario, the “paralytic rabies,” your muscles gradually become paralyzed, starting nearest the site of the bite and progressing upward along your body toward your head. You slip into a coma and eventually die. This type of rabies typically runs a longer course than the furious form.
Take your pick.
- Sex Drive
Ah, the intoxicating sex drive.
A study by Dr. Terri Fisher at Ohio State University at Mansfield showed that college-aged men thought about sex an average of 34 times a day, with a median of 19, while college-aged women’s average was 19 times a day with a median of 10. Now, college-aged people don’t represent the whole population but, anecdotally, those of us who are, or would like to be, sexually active are often hugely influenced, directly or indirectly, by sex. And you see sex everywhere in the media. So those numbers don’t surprise me at all. And that’s just the number of explicit sexual thoughts. That says nothing about the intensity or the impact or the way it then directly affects our decision-making.
Furthermore, this doesn’t include the number of times sex indirectly influences our thoughts, behaviors, and actions throughout the day. Think about all the people you decide to interact with, the way you talk to them, the way you position yourself socially, the activities you choose, how you go about those activities, what you wear to work or school, how you clean yourself, what hygiene products you use — and then think about all the ways that your desire for sex, coupled with a desire for partnership and companionship, affects these decisions. If you were being completely honest with yourself, I would bet that a desire for sex is probably a significant factor a majority of the time and is at least an important consideration almost all of the time.
And sex is the product of evolution, a natural phenomenon! One more reason to accept that we’re really not that different from all the other wondrous animals on this planet out here trying to survive. That shit is programmed into us. Survival and reproduction are two of the most innate drives. It is implicit in the process of evolution.
If you’ve lost the desire to reproduce because life experiences have soured you to the idea, I feel for you. Nurture holds sway with nature on a powerful level, to be sure. I have friends who have said they don’t feel the desire to have children. Same power to them as to those who want children. It is clear that humans are capable of overriding certain innate desires, like reproduction, as a result of negative experiences, sheer willpower, or simply disinterest. Because of our complex consciousness, we are capable of acts and thoughts that run directly counter to the evolutionary tendency.
There are also, of course, many who struggle with the desire to have sex, let alone reproduce, because of terrible, unspeakable experiences with sexual assault. My heart grieves daily for these victims.
For those among us who desire sex, it’s influence is nearly inescapable! And the foundation of that desire is natural. Did you say to yourself when you were born, “Hmm, I think it would be a good character trait if I desired sex”? No. You had no choice. It’s right there inside of you. Go ahead, try to dig it out. Go ahead! Honestly, why would you want to anyway? Having sex with someone you like, love, care about — few things beat it.
- All Of Your Physical and Emotional Traits and Capacities
Why stop at sex? Nature owns us in literally every physical and emotional way.
Color and texture of your hair. Shape and color of your eyes. Size and shape of your head. Size and shape of your body. Genetic predispositions. Vulnerability to disease. Physical strengths. Development through puberty. Bad acne or clear skin. Freckles or no. Moles or no. More or less body hair. And on and on and on.
The whole range of emotions you’re capable of feeling are a natural phenomenon. These feelings are not an absolute determined by humans. They are determined by evolution. Just as it’s impossible to imagine a color that doesn’t already exist, you will likely find it difficult to imagine an emotion that doesn’t already exist. How would you even go about beginning to define a new emotion? There is only what we already know, what we’re programmed with.
Emotions totally own you! You are nothing without them, and you are everything with them. That’s nature at work, and it’s impossible to escape. We can’t jump out of our skin. We can’t take on alien forms with new emotions and without old ones. You can’t leave your body and fly through space-time as a photon, emotionless and pure and singular. Everything you are is everything you are, trapped within this one musculoskeletal frame that grows and shrinks and transforms with every experience — but the limits of that transformation are preprogrammed. So sorry to break it to you. You’re just like any old horse.
- Nature Literally Owns Us In Every Single Way
Okay, so it was fun diving into those examples but, I’m sorry, it wasn’t enough to keep it to a prime seven. Restraint isn’t a strong suit of mine. We need to step back and grasp the bigger picture.
Nature owns you in literally every single way imaginable. From eating, to drinking, to sleeping, to your emotions and thought patterns and interactions and desires and ambitions. Even the parameters within which I’m able to conceptualize and construct this piece of writing, and the ways in which you will react to and digest it, are bound by our natural human forms.
Remember that every time you toss a piece of garbage on the ground. Every time you turn a blind eye to the devastation of natural habitats in your own backyard, to the increasingly catastrophic and random impacts of global warming, to the blood on our hands at the extinction of marvelous species.
Every time you drive solo when you could easily carpool. Every time you leave the lights on when you leave your house, shower excessively, consume prodigally, and waste thoughtlessly. Every time your business neglects to internalize the environmental cost of its production. Every time, as a consumer, you buy products that gravely wound the world just because they’re a dollar cheaper than the ecofriendly alternative (disenfranchised, impoverished folks are excused). Every new child you bring into the world lent to habits of destruction. Every time you let slide the ruinous routines of family and friends. Every time polluted material is dumped into our precious freshwater sources. Every time natural beauty is paved over. Every 500-year-old tree felled for lumber. Every forest cleared to raise livestock. Every whale, dolphin, shark, turtle, and undesired fish species murdered by bottom trawlers to supply you with fresh seafood.
Every time— just remember that you’re selfishly imperiling the legacy of the very force that allowed you to exist. You are scoffing at your mother and father, your brothers and sisters. You are trashing your own home, setting fire to your life’s wellspring.
Nature owns you. And it will endure long after you’re gone. It’s been doing so for billions of years. Our puny existence weathers it none.
So show some awe and respect. Get outside and look and smell and feel and admire with reverence. You are a limited hunk of flesh searching for meaning and nature is your means and your end, your gateway and your insurmountable obstacle, the medium through which you exist and the carpet upon which you soar.
You are nature and nature is you. Through nature’s flourishing, so, too, do we all prosper.