Energy and Anxiety

Fortunate or foolish enough to fall for an abandoned remnant of a house and its patch of scrub, it soon became plain that I could not be motivated without the driving force of energy. Huffing and puffing indoors and out is also preferable to the stale "monotony of standard reality." Joseph Brodsky claimed that "everything that displays a pattern is pregnant with boredom."

With ageing it is nevertheless difficult not to become specialists in the decline of energy and thus unwilling experts in anxieties brought about by the reluctant passage of barren time. Anxiety threatens to undermine us because we no longer have the energy and guile to look forward to we know-not what until passing the time comes about in the form of safe-as-houses repetition.

MKS

Systems and Processes

When lost for words either stay mum or adopt language that advertises knowledge. These days politics is portrayed in terms of 'systems' composed of 'processes'. Rulers and ruled are steeped in the 'processes' of government because both are embroiled in 'systems' of administration. Economics is similarly indebted : neither citizens nor consumers count for much because the business of markets is composed of impersonal 'processes' and 'systems' that make, advertise and sell things and services that typify post- industrial life.

'Systems' and 'Processes' are thus verbal signs of active mental agility. Unlike 'organisation and its components' which more rigorous thinking has now upstaged, they advertise familiarity with scientific idioms and their worldly applications. Most anything that is not deemed integral to its 'systems' and 'processes' is considered a waste of time. But if everything under the sun boils down to 'systems' and 'processes' there is surely no need to go on about something that is implicit and pervasive. It is thus indulgent waffle to describe modern methods of transport, education, health and entertainment as 'systems' and 'processes' because nobody argues otherwise. The 'diplomatic process' is a pleonasm.

But if Nature and human history are the products of 'systems' and 'processes' then the beauty, savagery and consolations of the natural world- along with the murmurations they give rise to- are entirely dependant on us for their meaning, care, and future. Yet in order to uphold this kind of belief it is necessary to keep in mind that all species of life, and especially human beings, are physiological creatures. My dictionary explains that physiology is the branch of biology concerned with "the internal processes of living organisms as distinct from their structural systems".

MKS

 

Home Sweet Home

A century ago the Irish novelist George Moore suggested that "A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it". But as the world at large is transformed into one all-encompassing neighbourhood,the 'homes' to which the world's holiday-makers return from their pursuit of packaged pleasures, have become too similar to the fare they sample abroad to make much difference.

When the effort and rewards of travelling become more arduous than the boxed-in boredoms of domestic life,from which holidays were invented to represent relief, then staying at home in the company of mass-media may prove a tad less tiresome than flying to far away resorts in search of 'what a man needs' in the way of diversions and distractions.

MKS

FEARSOME TIMES

"What is a man" Hamlet mused, "If his chief good and market of his time, Be but to sleep and feed?" " A beast, no more" was his reply. While the Prince's verdict dovetails with our present bovine liking for maximum consumption, some beasts of the world nevertheless display more savvy than is needed to outwit the mechanics of survival. Corvids, for example, know full well how to deal with what Shakerags called "the shipwreck of time" without resorting to the solace of round the clock diversions and distractions manufactured to make time pass. Beasts with even modest brains seem better able to "meet the time as it seeks us" than our current fears of time are able to muster.

MKS

SNOOPING

When it comes to keeping an eye on what neighbours are up to, country dwellers are at a disadvantage. The more remote one is from other people the more difficult it is to document what - if anything - they are up to. Snooping often comes at the price of being snooped upon, sometimes at the same time. One way to keep in the know is to be watchful, but quite often there is all too little to whet the appetite. And making friends with neighbours is often less rewarding than spying on people without being seen. Watching people who are doing next to nothing or nothing unusual has its own rewards.

Our most revealing neighbours hereabouts are birds hooked on the titbits we regularly leave out in the hope that their antics will feed our snooping. But last summer a bold Robin who was busy snooping at us from his perch on my kneecap, was suddenly swooped away in the claws of a Sparrow-Hawk.

MKS

THE AMENITY OF NATURE

One way of making-up our minds is to rely on distinctions between one thing and another. Even so, distinctions are regularly used to vindicate ends we already favour.

In the case of 'Nature' a distinction is frequently drawn between 'Nature Reserves', whose prime purpose is to safeguard wild life from our predations, and 'Amenity Facilities' that provide outdoor recreation in and close-by urban areas. This demarcation is, however, undermined by the economic reliance of 'Nature Reserves' on public tastes and government funding. The consequence of trying to please the likes and pockets of mostly urban visitors is that 'safe-havens' for animals, birds, insects, fungi, fish and woodlands are of only secondary importance. 'Nature Reserves' are thus seldom reserved for wild life, while 'Amenity Projects' provide a manicured spectacle of the 'countryside'.

Perhaps the most secure 'Nature Reserves' belong to those fortunate or canny enough to own large areas of land to keep  to themselves.

MKS

NATURE AND NURTURE

'Nature' is no exception to the endless spew of human baby-talk. In step with the breathless flow of on-line chatter adopted by print-media and television to keep them in business, references to the natural world have similarly adopted the foreshortened idioms of on-demand entertainment. Refusal to go along with the times is thought to risk condemning Nature to public indifference.

This turn of events is misguided because Nature is fated to be at odds with the fabricated excitement of present-day amusements. Their central purpose is not to revel in the fruits of time but to render us oblivious to its passage.

There is nevertheless no more reason to treat adults as constitutionally infantile, than there is to suppose that the natural gifts of infants can-let alone 'should'- be satisfied with tsunami's of sounds, images and 'information'. Because children have minds and other faculties of their own, telling them time and time again that Nature is 'incredible', 'fantastic' and 'unbelievably' 'out of this world', is better fitted to bore them witless.

MKS

SPECIOUS SPECIES

Unlike other species we ponder as well as practice the business of being alive. But no sooner have we learned to take existence in our stride than it becomes necessary to change step in order to fathom - or obscure - what to make of its absence. For recognition that 'human nature' is here today and gone tomorrow, fails to tell us what to expect as we become dead to ourselves and others and superfluous to the world at large.

Because the rest of 'mother nature' lives unaware of the scandalous terms of existence, dumb creatures are thereby spared the habit of rabbiting-on about life as the plaything of death.

MKS

BITS AND PIECES

Although there is plenty to look-out for in the valley, the beguiling business of Nature can hardly be expected to satisfy all our desires all the time. Chekov found consolation as well as joy in the Russian countryside, but also held fast to the belief that "A reasoned life without a definite outlook is not a life, but a burden and a horror." In the absence of meaning we cling to worthless yet time-consuming diversions and distractions. Yet a spiders web requires no verbal fanfare. According to Keats,"heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter."

MKS

ONE STEP AHEAD

Before we moved here the valley was a long abandoned tip. We soon set-about making changes; fencing off land into fields for sheep to graze, planting innumerable trees, sculpting out a pond and making the farmhouse habitable. Like sleepwalkers our time here is nevertheless marked by no master-plan. It now seems that the busier we are making-up things on the hoof, the less we want to fabricate a finished article. When we cease to ditch and delve, the valley will - or so we hope - be left to nature's talent to keep all of us guessing.

MKS