Here's another treat for you from Heather Heying's substack, Natural SelectionsStark and Exposed: It's the Modern Way.  I'll include a small excerpt, but first, I'll quote a passage from Chapter 8 of C. S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength, the third book of his Space Trilogy, because that is what immediately came to mind when I was reading her essay.

The Italian was in good spirits and talkative. He had just given orders for the cutting down of some fine beech trees in the grounds.

“Why have you done that, Professor?” said a Mr. Winter who sat opposite. “I shouldn’t have thought they did much harm at that distance from the house. I’m rather fond of trees myself.”

“Oh, yes, yes,” replied Filostrato. “The pretty trees, the garden trees. But not the savages. I put the rose in my garden, but not the brier. The forest tree is a weed. But I tell you I have seen the civilized tree in Persia. It was a French attaché who had it because he was in a place where trees do not grow. It was made of metal. A poor, crude thing. But how if it were perfected? Light, made of aluminum. So natural, it would even deceive.”

“It would hardly be the same as a real tree,” said Winter.

“But consider the advantages! You get tired of him in one place: two workmen carry him somewhere else: wherever you please. It never dies. No leaves to fall, no twigs, no birds building nests, no muck and mess.”

“I suppose one or two, as curiosities, might be rather amusing.”

“Why one or two? At present, I allow, we must have forests, for the atmosphere. Presently we find a chemical substitute. And then, why any natural trees? I foresee nothing but the art tree all over the earth. In fact, we clean the planet.”

“Do you mean,” put in a man called Gould, “that we are to have no vegetation at all?”

“Exactly. You shave your face: even, in the English fashion, you shave him every day. One day we shave the planet.”

“I wonder what the birds will make of it?”

“I would not have any birds either. On the art tree I would have the art birds all singing when you press a switch inside the house. When you are tired of the singing you switch them off. Consider again the improvement. No feathers dropped about, no nests, no eggs, no dirt.”

“It sounds,” said Mark, “like abolishing pretty well all organic life.”

“And why not? It is simple hygiene. Listen, my friends. If you pick up some rotten thing and find this organic life crawling over it, do you not say, ‘Oh, the horrid thing. It is alive,’ and then drop it?”

“Go on,” said Winter.

“And you, especially you English, are you not hostile to any organic life except your own on your own body? Rather than permit it you have invented the daily bath.”

“That’s true.”

“And what do you call dirty dirt? Is it not precisely the organic? Minerals are clean dirt. But the real filth is what comes from organisms—sweat, spittles, excretions. Is not your whole idea of purity one huge example? The impure and the organic are interchangeable conceptions.”

“What are you driving at, Professor?” said Gould. “After all we are organisms ourselves.”

“I grant it. That is the point. In us organic life has produced Mind. It has done its work. After that we want no more of it. We do not want the world any longer furred over with organic life, like what you call the blue mold—all sprouting and budding and breeding and decaying. We must get rid of it. By little and little, of course. Slowly we learn how.

That Hideous Strength was written in 1945, but this doesn't sound nearly as ridiculous as it did when I first read it in college.  "By little and little" we have come closer to this attitude than I could ever have believed.

From Dr. Heying's essay I will leave out the depressing part that brought Lewis's book to mind—but I urge you to read it for yourself.  Instead, I'll quote the more uplifting end of the story.

Go outside barefoot. Stand there, toes moving in the bare earth, or grass, or moss, or sand. Touch the Earth with your bare skin. Stand on one foot for a while. Then the other. Jump. Stand with your arms wide and gaze upwards at the sun. Welcome it. Do not cover your skin and keep the sun’s rays at bay.

Learn to craft and to make and to grow and to build.  Work in clay or wood or metal, in ink or wool or seeds. Build dry stacked stone walls. Mold forms with your hands and your tools. Add color to walls, to fabric, to food. Throw. Weave. Carve. Cure. Ferment. Fire. Braze. Weld. Create that which is both functional and beautiful.

Get cold every day. Go outside under-dressed or open your windows wide for a spell even sometimes in Winter or take a cold shower or immerse yourself in cold, cold water. You will be shocked. And you will be awake. And you will know that you are alive.

Also enjoy being warm. Be grateful for it. Come inside and find a cozy corner. Wrap yourself in a soft woolen blanket. Have a familiar by your side. Run your hands through his fur. Drink warm elixir from a handmade mug. Be present. Consider the past. Build the future.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at 4:02 pm | Edit
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