August 22, 2016

"When I was in college, and for many years after, I liked the natural world. Didn’t love it, but definitely liked it. It can be very pretty, nature."

"And since I’d been fired up by critical theory, and was looking for things to find wrong with the world and reasons to hate the people who ran it, I naturally gravitated to environmentalism, because there were certainly plenty of things wrong with the environment. And the more I looked at what was wrong— an exploding world population, exploding levels of resource consumption, rising global temperatures, the trashing of the oceans, the logging of our last old-growth forests— the angrier and more people-hating I became. Finally, around the time my marriage was breaking up and I was deciding that pain was one thing but spending the rest of my life feeling ever angrier and more unhappy was quite another, I made a conscious decision to stop worrying about the environment. There was nothing meaningful that I personally could do to save the planet, and I wanted to get on with devoting myself to the things I loved. I still tried to keep my carbon footprint small, but that was as far as I could go without falling back into rage and despair. But then a funny thing happened to me. It’s a long story, but basically I fell in love with birds. I did this not without significant resistance, because it’s very uncool to be a birdwatcher, because anything that betrays real passion is by definition uncool. But little by little, in spite of myself, I developed this passion, and although one half of a passion is obsession, the other half is love. And so, yes, I kept a meticulous list of the birds I’d seen, and, yes, I went to inordinate lengths to see new species. But, no less important, whenever I looked at a bird, any bird, even a pigeon or a sparrow, I could feel my heart overflow with love."

From "Pain Won't Kill You," In "Farther Away: Essays," by Jonathan Franzen.

39 comments:

Sydney said...

I wonder if most environmentalists feel this way. If so, it's true that it has become a religion.

M Jordan said...

"It can be very pretty, nature."

This kind of reminded me of the "Neature Walk" video that made me laugh back a couple years ago. Here's the link if you want a laugh.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Hm3JodBR-vs

Kevin said...

Gordon Gekko: "That's the one thing you have to remember about WASPs: they love animals and hate people."

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Jonathan Franzen sounds like an interesting person I could learn from.

Laslo Spatula said...

I like Birds..

I am Laslo.

Tommy Duncan said...

Continuing my theme for the day: This is a nice example of world class navel gazing.

traditionalguy said...

Study of Biology is a study of God's creation. That settles the mind, because God's grace is there for everyone and for His creation. The problem is fallen man, and hating them is a deep feeling that hurts you more than the bad men.

That was the theme of a memoir for his sons written by an obsessed Japanese hater from Mobile Alabama named Eugene Sledge. His wife published it later and it has become acknowledged as the best book on combat that came out of WWII. Spieberg used Sledge extensively in The Pacific HBO series.

Laslo Spatula said...

Something I was reminded of in searching for the Eels song I posted above: how some songs compel so many people to record themselves playing it and posting it on YouTube.

"I Like Birds" must have over a dozen covers filmed in various bedrooms.

Combination of love for the song and ease of playing, likely, but still.

I am Laslo.

rhhardin said...

Useful things to do on bike commutes

1. Learn wildflowers

2. Learn bird calls

Fernandinande said...

A couple of days ago I saw a vulture eating a dead rabbit on federal property, an incident which featured both a bird and a non-bird.

mockturtle said...

Seeing a bird can always lift my spirits.

Kevin, re the Gekko quote. As a WASP I have to admit that there is some truth to this. But, unlike my fanatical animal-rights-advocate brother who thinks humans are all bad, animals all good, I hold humans in higher esteem.

n.n said...

Environmentalism progressed as a cult that indulged in liberal departures from the scientific domain in both time and space (e.g. catastrophic anthropogenic global warming), with a distinctly anti-human flavor (e.g. selective-child/population control, class diversity), myopic vision with prophetic pronouncements (e.g. catastrophic anthropogenic global warming), and a militant (e.g. litigative, abortionist) arm -- a la KKK, female chauvinism -- of the Democrat Party. It was foreseeable that environmentalists would emerge as a political lobbying group to progress the lucrative blight (e.g. windmill gauntlets) of green/clean industries in low-density, low-availability, low-reliability technologies. Environmentalists are fascists.

The authentic nature lover is a conservationist, not environmentalist.

n.n said...

What doesn't break you, may make you stronger.

Roughcoat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
YoungHegelian said...

I don't know if there's a God above, or if there is, if He has any care for me.

I believe, I have faith, that there is & that He does, but I don't know.

There is, however, one thing I do know: Nature doesn't give a shit about me, if I live or if I die or how I live or die. Nature is matter in motion & nothing more. If the Earth comes into the crosshairs of a gamma-ray burster star, its entire surface will be sterilized of life. And the Universe will not shed a tear for our passing.

Our love of Nature & the environment is a love unreciprocated, & will always, by necessity, be so.

buwaya puti said...

This was the cause of many personal splits within old conservationist organizations like the Sierra Club.
The nature lovers vs the ideologues is not new.

There definitely is a religious aspect to ideological environmentalism, as with most political ideology, this is not new either, and subject to much comment. It is also something that comes with family or early training. There are numerous "Red Diaper Baby" memoirs.

Birkel said...

The author quoted by Althouse should be considered psychologically unhealthy.

Kathryn51 said...

I'm trying to figure out why the Professor chose this particular topic/excerpt for a post - she usually explains what led her to something (if it isn't from the New York Times or New Yorker).

As for the Gordon Gekko quote, yesterday a very young (early 20's) FB friend posted a news item about State sponsored wolf killing with the comment "This is why I hate humans". I need to take her out to lunch or something and gently explain the facts of life.

n.n said...

From faith or myth (e.g. word of mouth), God recognizes diversity. From the chaotic order of our "universe", Nature recognizes class diversity. In the former, individual lives matter. In the latter, "skin color" lives matter. God recognizes a right to conservation in self-defense. Nature recognizes a rite to abortion for the greater good.

wholelottasplainin' said...

I think Franzen's first sentence should have read, "And since I had been fucked up by critical theory..."

mccullough said...

Franzen is a good writer but forgettable. David Foster Wallace outwrote him.

William said...

I like chickens. Nothing makes me more thankful for the grace of God's creation than to encounter a chicken in the natural habitat of a deep fryer. Even rotisserie chickens are, in their own way, beautiful.

Birches said...

Good for him for finding something that can edify him. I'm sure most of us are more happy when we give humanity the benefit of the doubt instead of cataloging our many faults.

bigkat said...

a beautiful description of ones opening up to reality and becoming Aware

Mark said...

I think Franzen's first sentence should have read, "And since I had been fucked up by critical theory..."

Finally someone here recognizes the main point/problem, the disease, rather than getting sidetracked by the symptom of environmental matters.

Just_Mike_S said...

I think it's interesting how people (some people) hold themselves separate and apart from nature. It's all nature. All the way down, so to speak. Would things be any better if humans had evolved as a burrowing species? Tunnels! Tunnels everywhere! There is beauty everywhere waiting to be found. Birdwatching is a good place to start.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

the angrier and more people-hating I became. Finally, around the time my marriage was breaking up

I hope he has discussed this juxtaposition with a good therapist.

Feeling that The World Is All Wrong!!!! and Why Won't You People Do Something??!?! is not a prescription for a peaceful happy life and/or domestic harmony.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I read The Corrections ten or fifteen years ago. All I remember about is the depth of his loathing for the American heartland.

Larry J said...

Species self-hatred seems to be a common trait for militant environmentalists.

Paddy O said...

The discipline of thanksgiving is often ignored or slighted as somehow betraying the cause we believe in. But, thanksgiving is a spiritual discipline precisely so we do not get destroyed by the cause(s) we believe in, getting overwhelmed with frustration, hate, discouragement that we lose sight of why our cause truly matters. It becomes a cause for the causes own sake, and our emaciated souls never find enough in the anger, getting lost in hate, sharpening division.

That's why thanksgiving is all throughout the Bible, even and especially in times of oppression and injustice. It's not conceding victory and accepting the status quo to be thankful. Thanksgiving is about embracing hope and being oriented by this hope instead of rage.

mockturtle said...

The radical environmental movement is Groupthink at its most virulent.

mikee said...

I saw one Great Blue Heron in the first 40 years of my life, for about 5 seconds as it flew over my rural NC home.

I now live just north of Austin, Texas, and herons who don't want to fly all the way to Port Aransas spend their winters with the like-minded Egrets and Green Herons in our suburban subdivision's pond, eating crawfish and minnows and generally being impressive as all get out just standing there.

Even with repeated watching, they remain magnificent to behold.

Some day we will discuss the birdfeeder cardinals and their relationship with the doves, mockingbirds and grackles.

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm trying to figure out why the Professor chose this particular topic/excerpt for a post - she usually explains what led her to something (if it isn't from the New York Times or New Yorker)."

It's extremely unlikely that you'd guess this one. I was using a function on Amazon that allowed me to see all my Kindle books that have Audible versions that I could buy at a deep discount because I already own the Kindle. Franzen's book was one of these, and I clicked on the sample to see if I liked the reader. The sample included this passage and found it delightful for many reasons, my favorite being looking for people and things to hate because he had studied critical theory and environmentalism fitting right in with that.

Ann Althouse said...

"Franzen is a good writer but forgettable. David Foster Wallace outwrote him."

Not anymore.

Sam L. said...

That poor fool.

Terry said...

Franzen:
http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/interrogation/2016/07/a_conversation_with_novelist_jonathan_franzen.html

Basically, because he grew up in a privileged family, and lives a privileged life, you (not him) need to 'check your privilege.'

ken in tx said...

When I was in high school, I thought animals were more worthy than humans. What harm they did was instinctual and not by deliberate choice. I disdained hunting, but not shooting. I shot a lot of cans and bottles.

Later when I became a parent, I realized that some animals would love to eat my children. I changed my mind about their worthiness. Venerating animals is in some cases human sacrifice.

wildswan said...

"The discipline of thanksgiving is often ignored or slighted as somehow betraying the cause we believe in. But, thanksgiving is a spiritual discipline precisely so we do not get destroyed by the cause(s) we believe in, getting overwhelmed with frustration, hate, discouragement that we lose sight of why our cause truly matters."

That is so very true. Following a great cause (like prolife) through great adversity is a spiritual adventure. Everything happens (except success for prolifers) - love, hate, fear, exhilaration, courage, failure, dull effort, betrayal, deserters, infiltrators, great plans, making history, nothingness, even limited success. You don't want to burn up with anger and you don't want to be Pollyanna or Goody Two Shoes about things going wrong and there's always an effort to be made. Sometimes Thanksgiving is that effort. It's strange to read of other people in this same country making unavailing efforts to get beyond Starbucks and Facebook by Gaia worship, trying to use a good materialism to get beyond a common or boring materialism. If they merely committed themselves to following the Ten Commandments, life would have the missing dimension plus a huge element of challenge.

Zach said...

"And since I’d been fired up by critical theory, and was looking for things to find wrong with the world and reasons to hate the people who ran it, I naturally gravitated to environmentalism..."

Interesting insight that critical theory has a large component of unacknowledged hatred.

It’s a long story, but basically I fell in love with birds. I did this not without significant resistance, because it’s very uncool to be a birdwatcher, because anything that betrays real passion is by definition uncool.

Here we come to an unanswerable question. Why do your hobbies have to be cool? You can watch birds on your own. It can be as cheap or expensive a hobby as you want it to be, and you can be as social or unsocial as you want. Coolness does not enter into it.

The idea that your private inner life has to be approved of by others (who don't even care!) is a recipe for unhappiness.