Battling With Nature

September 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

In the novel Tom Sawyer, Twain portrays the constant battle between civilization and nature. Living in Missouri, Tom and his community are on the edge of the “wild west” and their lives constantly intersected with nature. At the time, nature was thought to be uncontrollable and more powerful than humans. However, nowadays in the many cities and suburban areas, nature seems to be completely overpowered by cement.

In Tom Sawyer, the white fence around his house marks an intersection between nature and civility. Aunt Polly constantly attempts to maintain her manicured yard, while nature tries to force its way inward. At the time and up until the early 1900’s the goal was colonize untamed land. This is the mindset that spread far and wide in the east inspiring adventurous people with the lure of opportunity. The frontier began as the land west of the original colonies and continued to be pushed west along with the boarder of civilization. Due to the danger and isolation of life in the west, it was primarily settled by adventurous men, farmers and miners. But overtime, the promise of a fresh start brought all kinds of people westward. Eventually, people took this one step too far. The idea of the frontier as open land and new opportunity is no longer and the goal has switched from colonization to preservation. Nowadays, our frontiers are more metaphorical rather than physical boundaries.

Similarly, many at the time feared the seemingly powerful and wild nature. In trying to cross the fast moving river, Tom was putting his life at the mercy of the river. Nature was dangerous and demanded respect. In present time, I can’t think of a major river that has been dammed. Humans have undermined the strength of nature in order to control it. Everything is safer. Bridges have been built, roads have been paved. Nature no longer carries the same influence that it did once.

Currently, we are facing a different battle with nature, but a battle nonetheless. Due to overpopulation and over development much of our natural resources have been exhausted. Rather than the past battle to keep nature out of our lives, we are trying to reenter it. While giving up the control we have over it is unrealistic, nature in a more civilized way is being preserved. In an attempt to repopulate the once vast forests, trees are constantly being planted. However, its interesting to think that the modern day idea of a forest is neatly planted rows to maximize efficiency.

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Will you be my Friend?

September 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

Have you ever read the children’s story about the Emperor who gets tricked into paying bags of money, for “invisible” clothes?  He tells all the towns people that only the best of the best can see them, and to the rest they are invisible, only one young child is willing to tell the truth and the rest of the town realizes the Emperor is indeed, not wearing any clothes.

I think there is something to be learned from this story.  Children are frank, which makes them wise.  As a child you know who is your friend and who is your enemy, probably because you went up to them on the first day of school and asked “Will you be my best friend?” And that was that.

This decision, to many adults, seems impulsive and foolish.  It can not be deep enough to really matter.  But take a second to look at that friend you had at age 3.  How well did they know you? How much time did you spend together?  What did you talk about? For a lot of people these childhood friendships ran deeper than many they have today.  Moreover those friendships were clear cut, defined.  No matter who you were rich, poor, black, white, yellow, red, Japanese, Korean, German, Jewish, Christian, fanatic atheist or any combination you were friends 100%.  That’s what you pinkie swore the first day, and that’s how things were.

Many would call these arbitrary friendships naive.  What if that “friend” was homeless?  What if they were the son of a drunkard? And maybe there is some sense of naivete there but I think it’s better that way.  Matthew makes a good point that children can move mountains, without even knowing it.  They make friends across social classes, across race lines.  But is it really accidental? I think children make those connections on purpose.  These connections are their way of reaching the unknown; of experiencing for themselves the idea of the “Great Frontier.” Children are connected to those who have different stories to tell, different games to play, different imaginations to create. In their frank, clear manner they are able to experience the frontier and connect with it (and each other) in ways many adults cannot.

In the famous novel Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain Tom, the main character, befriends the outcast son of a drunkard by the name of Huck Finn.  Tom is aware of Huck’s lower level in society but he does not judge the son as many of the adults in his society do.  Instead he befriends the young boy and learns as much as he can from him.  Together they visit the graveyard, and Jackson’s island, playing pirate on a homemade raft, they smoke, and discover riches.  They explore the unknown frontier of both the world around them, and the others’ position in life. I think that children are often very aware of what they are doing, what boundaries they are crossing, however this brings them a heightened ability to connect with the world.

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