Havens of Beauty

Stuart Vail

A hot swirling blob of molten rock flew in its orbit through the cosmos. It took billions of years to cool and form mountains, valleys, oceans, rivers, and (eventually) life. Somewhere on this primordial mass was a life form, perhaps akin to the very bacteria that live today in the super-heated vents of Earth’s ocean floor. This life form existed in the planetary inferno early on: dividing, mutating, and adjusting throughout the millennia of tumultuous evolution. It became single-cell organisms in the sea, lichen and moss on the land, and viruses in the air. Out of all these life-forms came every fish, tree, insect, animal, bird, and human that lives today: the evolutionary path of a higher plan.

We were born of fire. Our origins still exist in the underwater vents. Is there somehow a microscopic common thread of intelligence connecting us? Would it be possible to communicate on a cellular level with that original bacterium? Man certainly seems to resemble bacteria in how he has slowly grown all over the face of the planet, digging into it, infecting its waters and lungs with fluorocarbons, gases, airborne particulates, plastics, oil dumps, Styrofoam, landfills, and nuclear waste. He has ravaged the forests and depleted earth’s resources, leaving open, festering wounds. Our planet is sick. It has an immune-deficiency syndrome and is calling for help. Earth needs to be healed of mankind. If we were to vanish tomorrow, if all sewage-belching, smoking, choking, and poison-spewing factories were to completely stop at the stroke of midnight, it would probably take millions of years for the earth to completely heal itself. It would need that time to fully cleanse its oceans and rivers, and break down the pollutants and contaminants in all the landfills. By then, every building, from the granite facades to the sheet rock on the walls; from the plumbing and wiring to the brickwork; yes, every item from each stick of furniture to all the flotsam and jetsam of runaway mass consumption would be gone: rusted, eroded, and decomposed into dust. Not a memory would be left. In cosmic time it would only take a few moments — the bat of a celestial eyelash; in human time, an eternity.

What if that were to really happen? In the ensuing eons, would the ever-present bacteria at the bottom of the ocean — still there after all those years — continue to evolve, adapt, and turn into new life forms, eventually creating another “Homo-something” which would then, guided by its misguided intelligence, ravage the planet all over again?

Bacteria, and all living things, seek and destroy. That is the life cycle. Eat or be eaten. Everything consumes in order to survive. Nature, in Her infinite wisdom, laid out a wonderful, self-supporting world based on moderation. Every living thing has its place and is potential food for another. However, She never planned on the excesses of Man. Now because of him, we rally to save the whales, save the dolphins, save the buffalo, save the “fill-in-the-blank.” It’s too late to save the dodo bird, or hundreds upon hundreds of other bygone creatures who have perished at the hands of a force driven by greed, economics, progress, and the seeking of trophies and aphrodisiacs. No other species on earth has completely decimated another population. No other species — not even lions killing gazelles or whales gobbling copious amounts of plankton — has even made a dent in making another species extinct. Only man.

Save the bay, save the rain forests, save the planet. Save it from man. Save it from homo-intelligence. Man is the supreme bacterium, the ultimate champion of germ warfare. The irony is that, in spite of nature’s attempts to kill-off man with hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and disease, it will ultimately take man to kill-off man. No other force on earth has the power and ability to render mankind extinct. Only man has that peculiar talent — and the gall.

A few million years for Earth to regenerate.... Think of it. Not too bad, cosmically, if the earth could emerge at the other end a renewed and healthy heavenly orb. But that healing period is based on our factories terminating their poisonous ejaculate tomorrow. However, they don’t operate by themselves. If every human heart suddenly quit pumping at sunrise, only then would the factories grind to a stop. But what if mankind continues on into the twenty-second century — or into the thirtieth? How much more abuse can terra not-so-firma take? How choked and polluted can the oceans get before earth passes the point of no return? Or, more likely, how long will it be before man blows himself up and the planet with his powerful set of nuclear toys? All the king’s men would not be around to put the earth back together again.

Man is the supreme bacterium. We have to resign ourselves to that fact, and those of us who dabble at literature, music, the arts, philosophy, and any other endeavor of beauty, have a gift which helps to insulate us from the devastation around — although it can be a double-edged sword. Incumbent in that gift is a vulnerability which actually heightens our awareness of our own devastation of the planet. We know only too well that our creature comforts come at great expense, but we artists are too few to do anything about it. On a global scale, in the face of the unstoppable power of corporate greed, the artist is a powerless and impotent entity. Perhaps we strive all the more, because of our awareness, to create havens of beauty with our art in which to survive: havens which divert us from the moral decay. That is our only salvation: havens of beauty, havens of creativity, havens of life.

Article & photo ©2003 Stuart Vail

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