Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A Consummation Devoutly to be Wished

So I've been reading Gary Snyder's The Practice of the Wild because my copy of Walden has disappeared. I suppose it went off to the woods to live deliberately after getting tired of gathering dust on the milk crates that pass for shelves in my hovel.

I have been thinking about the connection between wild animals, carnivores in particular, and people. Mountain lions attacking mountain bikers, bears wandering into Albuquerque during a drought and, in one case (this really happened) eating an old woman in her kitchen.

The mountain came to Mohammed. Civilization has reversed this--we are coming to the mountain in unstoppable droves. It only seems like the wild things are coming down out of their "habitats". Really we are just inching on, and on, and on. So when someone gets mauled or eaten, I feel a thrill of mysterious delight. It isn't schadenfreude. There's no moral tinge to it. I don't think, bad human, good bear, just desserts, or anything like that. Rather, I feel a thrill that such a brush with nature, such an annihiliating encounter, still happens, is still possible. "Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished." Imagine if Hamlet had been devoured by wild beasts, instead of by his own ego. I think of it as the ultimate transcendence, your substance, yourself, being taken into the body of an 'alien' being, becoming it, feeding it, and an egoless being at that. To be eaten by a bear, or a killer whale seems especially profound.

The other animals not so much. Shark, crocodile, too antediluvian, too chilly and cold. A snake--that could be interesting. Being torn apart by wild dogs would suck. But a lion, ok. Tiger, ok, as long as it wasn't a sadistic tiger. A bear, yeah, because they are so nearly human.

We are eaten every day by so many things, eaten from the inside. I think it might be thrilling, even satisfying (beyond the terror) to be eaten up completely, licked down to the bones, by an honestly hungry animal.


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