There’s no straight line…

There’s no straight line in nature, or symmetry. Leaves, you said? Take another look. Pay close attention to each side and really look. Are the two halves truly identical?

Tree trunks are never perfectly straight. Water surface is not perfectly still. There are always ripples somewhere in the surface. There are no such thing as perfectly flat ground either. The latter will be familiar to anyone who’s ever camped in the wilderness or tried to build a house.

In fact if you want to know what’s man made. Find the straight line and the right angles and the symmetry. The man-made perfection.

There’s no silence or stillness in nature either. Even in the furthest reach of wilderness, there’s always leaves rustling, insects buzzing, birds chirping, or water running somewhere. Soundless silence? I think that’s a man-made concept.

I watched a clip once of a photographer who visited Antarctica and described it as the only place on earth where you can experience complete silence, the perfect stillness. I don’t buy that. I’m betting that if he had closed his eyes and listened closely, he would’ve heard the ice shifting underfoot, the running melt a few kilometers below, the sound of the wind belting against the surface of the ice. There’s always movement and motion somewhere. Life is movement, movement is life. Whether or not we perceive them; that’s a different question.

If you think about it, being denizens of this planet, in this Universe, we are a tiny speck of object standing on a much bigger object that’s rotating at 1000 miles per hour, being hurled around this gigantic orbit at 67,000 miles per hour. From that scale, we’re part of the movement whether we want it or not.

For nature is abundantly full of movements and asymmetry, jagged edges of all angles but the most perfect 90 or 180 degrees. Nature is imperfection, abstraction, chaos and disorder. Nature is not perfect. Or depending on how you see it, perhaps it’s the imperfection of nature is just perfect.

When we were traveling in Africa, we were much closer to nature than before as we were camping most of the times, and because, well, Africa is still pretty undeveloped.

Well, on that never-ending camping trip, we saw that none of the mudhuts were square. Because they’re made of material from nature, that are not all straight and right-angled, cut to perfection using man-made machine. We also often struggled with finding a flat ground to park the car in. There are nights we’d wake up and find both of our bodies smooshed to one side of the rooftop tent as the slight angle caused one of us to slide sideways.

And then there’s the near constant battle we had with insects during the trip. Flies, mosquitoes, moths and a million other insects I couldn’t identify, day and night. Even though all the windows in the tent were lined with mosquito nets, they somehow still found a way to crawl in. Once we accidentally parked the car on an anthill, and within hours, we had a full blown ant invasion in the car. Thousands (not exaggerating) of tiny ants in every crevices of the car.

But that’s just what nature is.

It’s the same observation I had with cleanliness. We couldn’t escape dirt on that overlanding trip. Keeping the car clean was an impossible task. In the rare occasion when we were able to wash the car, we knew it would not be long before it would get muddy and dusty again. After all we were driving on dirt roads in the middle of the rain season. Some of the roads might have been smooth asphalt years ago, and now over time became filled with pot holes and puddles as wide as the road.

And that’s just what nature is, I concluded.

It flows where it wants to flow, bends where it wants to bend, bites where it wants to bite, grows where it wants to grow, crawls where it wants to crawl, eats where it wants to eat, shits where it wants to shit.

Being so close to nature (so close that we had an elephant trying to feel our tent with its trunk one night) made me seriously wonder, “How on earth did we make the developed world so clean, so insect-free / wildlife-free, so perfect?” We’ve somehow turned the unforgiving wildnerness into a cozy, comfortable habitat. But at what cost? How many trees did we fell? How many jungles/forests/swamps/wild places did we conquer to make it more habitable? How many chemicals did we pour out to kill the insects? How many animals did we kill to build our towns and cities?

Sometimes I think we are too obsessed with order, symmetry, cleanliness and perfection that we are destroying nature.

The other day I read an article about food waste and it mentioned a statistic: 40% of food produced in the US ended up wasted. What it failed to mention was that most of the waste happened before they reached the supermarket aisle. So many fruits and vegetables were discarded right away if they don’t meet the beauty and “hygiene standard” of Western supermarkets.

Has our obsession for perfection (where we assume the slightest imperfection equals bad) destroyed nature?

And why is it that we have this tendency to prefer perfection when there’s so much imperfection in nature? Is it a form of a power trip? Our way to demonstrate our power/authority/control over nature?

I don’t have any answers, just a challenge to accept and find beauty in nature’s imperfections.

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