In Theodore Roszak’s conversation with D. Patrick Miller [“The Voice of the Earth,” April 1994], Roszak says the women’s movement has taught us that “relationships based on dominance and submission — say, between husband and wife — are not sustainable.” I find it amazing that with all his education and life experience Roszak wasn’t able to figure that out for himself. Then he says that gender politics is evident in the metaphor of Mother Nature because men have traditionally seen the natural world as “feminine and in need of domination.” This statement is even more amazing to me. People have always perceived the earth as being female because it gives life, as a mother gives life, miraculously, from within itself.
Roszak argues that industrialized humanity is out of touch with life and the interconnectedness of things, especially living things, yet he analyzes our relationship with nature in terms of sexual politics. This genuflection to genderism obscures what is really important in an understanding of life.
Feminism is as much a symptom of contemporary society’s divorce from nature as any ecological bogyman, because the feminists see politics in every facet of our lives and because they believe that the process in which we are engaged is a struggle. But ultimately each of us must decide whether to experience himself or herself as either a living thing — able, of necessity, to surrender to the process of life — or an invention of the mind.
Humanity has endeavored to subdue nature because it perceives itself as separate from it. We imagine that we live in our projections and desires, and we do not know how to live in the world. That this has anything to do with gender is ridiculous. We have no faith. We do not trust. The very forces that give us life terrify us. We want to be in control. We want the world to give us our own way, and there are many strategies to deceive ourselves that it does.
Regarding the conversation with Theodore Roszak and his essay “Anna in the Aisles of Plenty” [April 1994] — yes, we are being seduced by continuous novelty in exchange for freedom. We let bosses and managers control us forty hours every week, and in return we get to watch a lot of TV and go shopping. Now that we’re becoming disgruntled with the system and thinking that democracy is something we might want to participate in, they’re coming up with five hundred channels to distract us. Shopping channels. Being spoiled into oblivion is what’s ahead of us. We’re so accustomed to our cages that we only look forward to being let out on weekends. Is our imagination of what-could-be stunted?
If only we could loosen up and not go to work. Then we could walk down the street visiting all the neighbors we rarely see — listening to their stories, helping to plant lettuce and peas, learning to enjoy each other’s company. We’d have time to go fishing, and if the stream were dead we could plant cattails and help the companies who are polluting it find better things to do. We’d be having too much fun living our lives to need to show off expensive belongings. We’d no longer see success and marriage as the goals in life, and we’d have time to learn how to play drums, write poetry, build our own house out of old tires and scrap timber. And chaos might reign and not all would go smoothly, but it would be so much better than exporting guns and stirring up trouble to monopolize oil. Phooey on the apocalypse!
Dan Gerber’s essay “Walking in Tierra del Fuego” was refreshingly optimistic among all the other despondent and pessimistic stories and essays in the April 1994 issue.
Sometimes it seems that you concentrate on the downers and don’t make enough room for more joyful and uplifting material.
The world is still a very wonderful place.
I simply loved Michael Ventura’s “Standing at the Wall” [March 1994]. It reminded me vividly of my own visit to the Vietnam Memorial in 1980. Like Ventura, I was there on a day that was cold yet sunny. Both my mind and heart were trying to take in the enormity of it all when I witnessed something very personal. A young boy was cautiously climbing a ladder that leaned against the wall. An older man, perhaps his grandfather, steadied the ladder, and the boy’s mother (as if acting on behalf of all mothers everywhere) held tight to her son’s ankles as he rose higher. The boy, upon reaching the top step, looked at the wall, searching. His face shone in the wall’s mirror-black surface. Slowly his reflection registered a small smile of recognition.
I’ve often wanted to ask him: how did it feel to frame the name of your father with your hands, watching your reflection shine back at you? Was it cold as you pressed your lips against his name? Did your father feel the warmth from your kiss? I like to think so.