Why Have Humans Turned A Blind Eye To Reality?
The earth is beautiful.
It is complicated and dynamic and overwhelming and beautiful. More greens exist in nature than we could ever mix on a paint palette; rainbows have a transparent, yet brilliant, quality that can be found in nothing else, and clouds sit perfectly in a rich blue sky in a way that nothing we could ever create could.
We spend an incredible amount of time using science to try to understand the world around us — why do clouds sit in the sky? Why are leaves such a wonderful shade of green? Why does cool, refreshing water fall from the heavens for us the conveniently drink some days, and the sun come to warm us and raise our spirits others?
We explore every question we can ask. We want to know everything, because we think if we understand, we can control.
We are power-hungry and possessed with ambition. We are consumed with the idea that we can do anything, without giving consideration to what we need or should do. We never go outside to just observe. When we see trees, we never just look at them and see their beauty.
We never feel the way the grass feels against our bare feet, the way the sun shines over the water or the way the rain dances in the grass.
Perhaps sometimes we do, but these moments are rare.
They are fleeting moments in our lives, and usually they are only when something unusual is happening — flowers are blooming, the sun is setting, there is a rainbow — it is never when we are walking to our cars in the morning, or getting our mail.
I think the fundamental problem with our view of nature is that we do not view nature in the same way that we view art, although it is the same thing. Trees are huge, beautiful, living sculptures. Flowers are three-dimensional tapestries made from the most delicate material.
Clouds in the sky are an incredible painting on an enormous canvas, rock some of the best abstract sculptures, and grass the finest, most fragile, of rugs.
Artists spend copious amounts of time trying to capture the essence of these things in painting, sculptures, drawings, what have you, and although there is obvious value in these renditions of reality, they tend to make us forget that the real thing exists.
If an artist created a painting that looked exactly as real as the view out of your living room window, the piece would be worth millions of dollars, and no one would dream of destroying it.
Photo-realistic works of art, along with sculptures that come strikingly close to reality, are worth insane amounts of money, and are protected in museums and private collections. Yet the real thing — the real sky that was being painted, the real tree being sculpted, the real mountain being sketched — is destroyed without a second thought.
We have created a world where the imperfect human depictions of reality are infinitely more valuable than reality.
I do not see how that is any different from saying that a book character is more valuable than a human life. It is heinous.
The root of the problem is clearly in our education system. Children think art is boring and love to play outdoors. Slowly, as we grow older, we are taught that art has value — even the art that we do not understand. We are taught to see the beauty in art that we think is ugly, and to turn away from the natural world.
We stop going outside.
We start seeing nature as a muse for our art rather than the art itself. We begin to value our humanity over our surroundings, and in that, we lose what it means to create art at all. Art exists to revere and criticize reality, not replace it.
In elementary school we had things called specials. These were classes which we had once a week that covered subjects that, although may not be very academically oriented, were important to our education. We had each special for an hour, and we had one special a day.
At my elementary school, our specials were art, music, P.E., guidance and library.
Specials had a big impact on me as an elementary-schooler. Although I hated the organized activities we did in gym, I loved art and library, I appreciated music, and I always enjoyed guidance. Some of the first songs I ever learned were in music class, art was the first place I ever encountered famous works of art that I really enjoyed.
Library was the first place I ever learned about the Dewey Decimal System (which became my best friend) and guidance was one of the first places I remember seeing that it was okay to be different. Even gym had its benefits. I became the jump-roping queen of my class year after year, and that was always exciting.
There is no question that these programs have huge benefits in the education of children. They helped us be healthier, opened our minds to the arts, and gave us tools to carry us into the next phase of our lives.
However, they also set into place a set of ideas that are arguably the basis for all the other ideas we will develop about these subjects.
A love of music or art or books instilled in a child is likely to last for the rest of the person’s life, and that is the real value in these extra classes.
It isn’t just about expanding minds to memorize more facts or showing children the many dimensions of life; it’s about creating lifelong passions and appreciations that will mean more to us than our multiplication tables.
In the same way that we are teaching children to appreciate art and music, we should be teaching them to appreciate, respect and truly see nature for the beauty it possesses. Why is gardening not among the specials in elementary schools?
Why do we not teach children to not only grow things and view them for the living things that they are, but also show them the true beauty that kind of life possesses? After all, no child truly appreciates art until they are taught to.
Why are we teaching our children to appreciate man-made artifacts, and neglecting to show them the perfection and splendor in the natural world around them?
How many of our ideas about what we want in terms of temperature control, electricity, transportation, buildings, and permanence in general are formed by neglecting to acknowledge the fact that they can only be achieved by destroying the art that also happens to be keeping us alive?
We have gone blind.
We have stopped seeming how our roads and our houses and our utilities carve into the earth and disfigure it in the same way that tar and knives would destroy a painting. We have even begun to see beauty in these man-made calamities.
We have put ourselves in the work of art that is the Universe under the pretense of making it function better, while in reality not only depriving it from functioning at all, but also slowly removing everything that is beautiful.
But it is not too late. There are new children born every day, and it is our job to open their eyes. It is our responsibility to show them the beauty in reality, and to teach them how to protect the one and only earth they have been given.
It is our duty to show them — and give them the tools to reverse — the damage which we have done to the planet, and to at all costs prevent them from viewing the man-made as more valuable than the natural.
After all, there are seven billion humans, and there is only one earth.
Anna McAnnally is a high school senior who hopes to enroll in journalism school in the fall. She writes both formally and creatively in every second of her free time, partially because she loves it, and partially because if she did not she would lose whatever little sanity she has. You can read some of her ramblings on her blog.