Anthology – Peoples’ Plan for Life, Now and Forever …
A Natural Year in an Unnatural World, The View from Lazy Point by Carl Safina, published by Henry Holt and Company, LLC, New York © 2011. Carl Safina, occupies the place of distinction as the last quoted, and most recent book in Anthology. And too, it brings you as close to the entire natural world through the print medium as you are ever likely to get.
Mr. Safina lives at the tippity-tip end of Long Island, Montauk Point, in a sort of a shack as close to the water’s edge of Long Island Sound as nature allows, depending on conditions. When not in, he’s usually under – the sea somewhere else in the world – or out and about, meeting with other oceanographers and scientists, industrialists and fishermen, both local and international, and he tracks migration by all the flying and swimming species. He has an enquiring mind and a splendid gift for narrative. The book is fun to read, and is written by a person humbled by existence – all life. He is kind enough to introduce us to his subject by tracing earlier thinkers – much earlier.
“…What ought we to do? It’s an old question. Nearly twenty-five hundred years ago, Socrates realized that ‘we are discussing no small matter, but how we ought to live.’ Aristotle helped get the ball rolling twenty-three hundred years ago: ‘Plants exist for the sake of animals…animals exist for the sake of man…It must be that nature has made all things specifically for the sake of man.’ Saint Thomas Aquinas (in the 1200s) believed that only humans have an eternal soul (implying that other animals are terminal cases with no escape from earth), that God gave all the animals to people for our use, and that people can kill or use animals however we desire, ‘without any injustice.’ ‘The world is made for man, not man for the world,’ said Francis Bacon (around 1600). René Descartes (1600s) believed that animals lack consciousness and could be treated without concern for their well-being. He declared men ‘lords and possessors of nature.’ Immanuel Kant (1700s) believed that each moral being has the right at all times to be treated respectfully as an equally free and rational being, but that only rational beings are moral beings, and only humans are rational beings. To Sigmund Freud, ‘the principal task of civilization, its actual raison d’être, is to defend us against nature’ (1927).
“…I’m going to correct myself. Or at least amend something. I’ve said that ethics, religion, and economics reflect philosophies devised centuries ago and doesn’t accord well with the last 150 years of science, and that our thinking is way behind. But not all the old thinking was narrow. To every tide, a countercurrent. A few philosophers came closer to getting it right. And in every case it’s because they actually left the house to see what the world is really like.
“In the mid-1700s, Gilbert White of Selborne, an English clergyman, helped establish a respect for nature as a kind of philosophical subtheme. In the early days of systematic observation, many important men of science were clergymen. Studying God’s work – the world itself – was a way to better understand the Creator. White thus introduces his purpose for writing The Natural History of Selborne:
‘If the writer should at all appear to have induced any of his readers to pay a more ready attention to the wonders of the Creation, too frequently overlooked as common occurrences; or if he should by any means, through his researches, have lent an helping hand towards the enlargement of the boundaries of historical and topographical knowledge…his purpose will be fully answered. But if he should not have been successful in any of these his intentions, yet there remains this consolation behind – that these his pursuits, by keeping the body and mind employed, have, under Providence, contributed to much health and cheerfulness of spirits, even to old age.’