Imagine being a tourist in your own garden. You’re the caretaker, you live in it, and yet you never step off the paved footpath except on rare occasions. Contrast that with the simplicity of a child who dives headfirst into mud puddles and plants, enraptured with the scent and beauty of new discovery.
Today, we find ourselves wrapped in a silver cocoon of glittering technology, shrouded from the Jurassic wilderness of our ancient planet, filtered from the needs of the poor and the knick-knacks of the protected, disconnected from the desires of our own natures. Centuries of urban development have tried to turn our home Earth into a gated zoo, a botanical garden. But it is a garden gated only in our minds, not in reality.
One Sunday I was walking back from Mass along a country road. Naturally, I was walking on the asphalt, and trying to awaken an admiration for the trees and fields around me. The more I walked, the more I felt I was looking at something ‘other’, that I was standing on the ‘normal’ – the road – and looking at the world wild and strange. We look at the world and say “How beautiful it is!”, but in an observational way, not a possessive way.
For a moment, I broke through the invisible wall separating the road from the grass, and walked through the dew-laden clusters of wild wheat and flowers. Strangely enough, it felt like a different world.
I was now standing on the Earth, looking back at the asphalt web that laced homes and skyscrapers together, strung with the colored tinsel of traffic lights.
Really, which is the sideshow? Which is the thing that doesn’t occur in nature, and is really strange and wonderful? The works of man. And yet, we were made in a Garden. Earth is our home. We are meant to build cities and streets, homes and hotels, tunnels and traffic lights, but we shouldn’t forget the primal home in which we all live.
Our gardens and trees still poke through the steel and concrete mask which we woven over the face of the Earth. They remind us of our home. Some older cultures were less distanced from the Earth, drawing stones and supplies from Earth’s bosom to our barns.
Is it so surprising then that people scorn the concrete jungles and faceless urban sprawl of today in favor of the glimmering garden of James Cameron’s Pandora? We’ve come to live in a dream, a colander of glass and steel and wood, peeping only so often out at our glorious, wild and untameable world.
Our world inspired Pandora. But as a culture, we don’t appreciate our coffee-table books anymore, in which the delicacies and vistas of our home are catalogued. We should remember that we are not masters but stewards of our Mother Earth, an uncontrollable, temperamental, and yet wild and wonderful mother, filled with good things and grandeur.
We just need to make a little act in our minds; to remember that our modern world is the dream, or a half-baked nightmare, imprisoning us inside our home. Only nature has twilight and dew, red grapes and chilled seas, gold mornings and crisp mountain air. To be human is to love our home, and to care for it.