I was taking a piss the other night in my perfectly well lighted, but typical dingy and disgusting college bathroom. Aside from the splattering noise of my piss hitting the sides and the water inside the porcelain bowl, all I heard was the noise of the TV from the neighboring room and my roommates drunkenly laughing. I didn’t hear any sounds of animals from outside, or the wind, or even just the sound of natural silence – why would I? I live in a fairly large college city, I should, and do, expect this.
Slowly (it was a long piss) my gaze left the bowel and traveled along the wall to the electrical outlet above the sink. Blinking in the socket was the small orange light demonstrating **aside, is demon and demonstrate from the same root? Should check that out** the circuit was still alive and flowing. Staring at that small, slightly flickering but always constant, light it hit me hard – I barely live in the world. The world as I know it, and most people in general, isn’t really the world – it’s just a further extension of humanity.
I think, for me at least, this is no where clearer than New York City. There is nothing natural about that city, nothing organic about it besides the organic growth of the city itself; that, in itself, is astounding. We refer to cities growing organically versus a planned city, but there is still nothing organic or natural about cities. Don’t get me wrong, I love cities, and I especially love NYC, but that is not the world in the slightest – it is the compounding and extension of millions of people. Not only people directly involved in the growth of NYC, but the billions of people in human history who have helped to develop what it even means to be human.
We say we are animals, and that we are still part of the world, but we really aren’t. We have divided the world into the natural and the human, heavily so. So heavily, in fact, that people need to set aside times in their life to experience ‘nature’ by going for hikes, or walks, or going fishing. Even then, though, it is still as if we have never experienced the real natural essence of the world.
Last summer, I was in Turkey for two months. While there, I went for a hike in the world’s second largest canyon – and fuck, was it amazing and beautiful. Looking back on it, though, that canyon is still fully within the realm of belonging to humanity now, not the world. Why? Well, simply because it is completely enshrined by the humanity around it – food vendors, bus stations, restaurants, camping grounds, etc. I am not complaining, I am just saying that this natural wonder ceases to be natural. It is instead just a wonder of the world that has been engulfed by humanity.
It is astounding. Thinking of life like this, I fully expect to never really leave humanity, or to truly experience nature. Any nature left, now, seems like just the leftovers of the world – something we looked at and said, to ourselves, “Well, we should probably try to preserve something.” It is bittersweet. Thinking like this, I realize how much we are just products of those who came before us.
At the same time, it is fully reasonable to wonder “Have I ever been outside?”