Saturday, April 4, 2009

Our Agrarian Roots

Kathy and I re-watched "Seabiscuit" tonight. This is a movie about how a strong heart (figuratively speaking) can bring about unexpected success. It is also about trust and friendship, and second chances.

Horses have been an enabler of mankind's mobility for thousands of years. The ascent of trains and automobiles relegated horses to dwindling numbers of farms and ranches, and more a plaything of the monied than a mainstay of modern civilization.

The character of Charles Howard, Seabiscuit's owner, becomes wealthy selling automobiles in San Francisco, yet goes on to put faith in a small horse's ability to be great; always looking to the future, yet drawing comfort and passion from the past.

Will we come to a time where some humans no longer know or understand the natural world, nor remember its history, having grown up within a completely manmade environment? What are the consequences of this disconnect with the natural world on the decisions and actions of these who are ignorant of the division between the works of nature and the works of man?

What are the consequences on the artistry of these people? They may well know the paintings, sculptures, plays, operas, symphonies, etc., that are the hallmark of man-made fine art, and derive maximum pleasure from creating or admiring these works. Are they any less pleased for having never seen ten thousand verdant leaves shimmering in the summer breeze, having never heard the waves thundering ceaselessly upon the ocean shore, having never smelled the lasting fragrance from a bed of vividly painted flowers? Is it really just a case of, "To each, his own?"

We are steadily moving away from our agrarian roots. Only two percent of the U.S. population now live and work on farms, twice as many as are actually needed. The rest live now in cities and suburbs. There are people in cities who have grown up having never seen the Milky Way, much less only a few of the brightest stars. How does this impact our national attempt to return to our Moon? How does this affect their understanding of history, lived and recorded by men and women who were less mobile, less connected outside of their home towns, and less aware of scientific truth concerning the world in which they lived?

When we become disconnected from the natural world and our own history within it, how do we know when we are doing the right thing in the future?

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