When I was young, I focused on the stories and I easily overlooked just how wrong Walt Disney was in terms of the reality of nature.  What Disney got wrong (and still gets wrong), and what many citified people continue to get wrong, is that they view nature as this cooperative utopia where creatures all co-exist in harmony.  In reality everything in nature is competing with everything else in nature for survival. 

The obvious argument against the peaceful co-existence paintbrush is the reality of prey and predators at every level.  Even plants try to crowd each other out.  I prefer to say that there is a balance to nature; harmony doesn’t quite describe it correctly.

It is true that if one walks through the woods and fields that there is a great diversity of life.  Diversity exists in nature due to the fact that all plants, animals and insects have developed certain characteristics that provide them an edge in the fight for existence in specific conditions.  The ferns and marsh marigolds thrive in the cool, moist shaded stream banks.  The black spruce and pitcher plant can tolerate the high tannin levels of the bog.  The tamaracks join root systems so that they can stand tall in loose, loamy soils that won’t support an oak tree.  The brook trout celebrates the cool pools and rapids of the stream that would stunt the great muskie.  Each has  its place, so that as a whole the pallet is fully textured and multi-hued.

It is interesting to watch waterfowl on the conservancy ponds near my home.  The pond that I walked by the other evening reflected this layering aspect of nature.  In the forefront and quite limited to one corner were a knot of mallards.  The vast majority of the pond and the surrounding shoreline was filled with Canada geese.  The far side, furthest from the road, was where twenty or so swans were congregated.  Small groups of geese and swans kept coming in from the fields where they had been feeding to gather on the pond for the evening.  The geese all circled and landed into the area already populated with geese.  The swans came in deliberately settling into the group of swans.  A little bunch of teal though landed in formation adjacent to the gathered mallards and settled in as quickly as the pond surface smoothed itself out.      

People can err when trying to draw clear correlations between nature and humans, mostly because we don’t understand nature or ourselves very well.  Although we are of nature, we are also, in fact, quite distinct.  For one thing, we tend to stress differences between us that aren’t significant, and yet we view them as all-important.  Like nature, we are in constant competition, but unlike nature we seem reluctant to allow the other their place.  Nature just requires as much non-interference as possible to re-balance after an upset.  People on the other hand require constant and consistent effort at community.  Even as individuals we cling to independence, yet we require relationship.  There can never be peace if the goal is simply co-existence.  We need to love.  We need to be loved.  Love is the only way.  Love builds balance; anything less will eventually topple over.      

His Peace <><

Deacon Dan

Photo by Mor Shani on Unsplash