A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Thank God it’s spring! And this isn’t just another date on the calendar; this is the real meal deal. Mother Nature is changing her clothes, and Father Time is watching. We mere mortals are only a small part of what they both have in mind, but, like every year since this planet was a baby, it’s going to be spectacular. As of today, the birds and the bees are back, and they’re feeling frisky.
Unfortunately, the spring solstice doesn’t carry the kind of punch it used to. These days, it’s mostly living on its rep. We all know it’s spring, but in a world of central heating, air conditioning, mega-malls and concrete canyon streets, how many of us really care? In the 21st century, we generally ignore the world around us until Mother Nature gets pissed off and starts slapping the crap out of everything in her path – then we pay attention. Primitive humans weren’t this arrogant; that’s why they treated the spring solstice with some respect.
Back in the day, winter in the northern hemisphere was nothing to be trifled with. Our species never physically adapted to the cold the way some of the other animals on this planet did. However, despite our natural tendency to freeze to death, we insisted on living in climates that were inhospitable for four (or more) months of the year. The only recourse for this stupidity was to outsmart Mother Nature, using the tools at hand – fire and the skins of more practical animals. Plus, our instincts told us to hide in caves when a hostile world starting howling for our bones. This strategy worked and we survived long enough to understand that — even though Mother Nature spent a good amount of time trying to kill us — eventually she would relent and treat us like her special children again. And this was cause for celebration.
As we evolved beyond beetle-brow tough to early-human clever, we must have realized that these constantly changing seasons were not random. They had a pattern. When winter was over, the leaves came out. From there, only a Neanderthal wouldn’t put two and two together and realize, once the leaves started to fall, winter was coming back. (That’s why there are no more Neanderthals, BTW. Just sayin’.) With that in mind, it wasn’t a Cro-Magnon leap of intelligence to figure out that, with a little planning, we could gather food and firewood during the good weather, store them away, and a smart cave family could sit out the winter in relative comfort. Thus, instead of hanging out in the cave, shivering and getting skinny all winter, we had some leisure time to put that big brain or ours to work. We watched the sun, we watched the moon, we noticed when the ice started to melt, when the birds came back and when the bear two caves over woke up grumpy, hungry and looking for a fight. This was all important stuff, because the more we knew about the seasons, the more likely it was that we’d be around to see a few of them.
Unfortunately, climatology hadn’t been invented yet, and so humans simply filed all these various discoveries under “Mother Nature: Whims and Idiosyncrasies.” But Mother Nature was real. She made the flowers bloom, the warm breezes blow, and warmed up the sun. So, when winter was over, it made sense for primitive humans to take a minute, be polite and say thanks.
These days, we don’t much care for Mother Nature. After all, for the last two hundred years or so, we’ve been fighting with her for supremacy on this planet. There are some who say we’re winning and some who say we’ve already lost. Unfortunately, the majority of us don’t seem to give a damn, either way. Our egos are so secure we no longer thank her — or anybody else — for our existence. However, on a morning like this one, in the first sunlight of what’s going to be a perfectly gorgeous day, I tend to get a little caveman-humble. I hear the birds putting on the brag, see an ambitious green sprig forcing its way through the sidewalk and maybe — just maybe — sniff a sweet change in the air. And it all tells me something special is happening again this year — and it’s going to fantastic.
Thanks, Mother Nature!