Wednesday, February 3, 2010

In The Wild ... With Other Sublime Fish.

So I had a long protracted conversation while eating raw fish earlier today. And we talked about whales and sharks, and monkeys, and predation ... and intelligence. And intra-uterine cannibalism.

Then I brought up the sublime. Friedrich's Monk at the Seashore. One man standing before the storm. Dylan, singing Shelter from the Storm, trading for a lethal does of salvation, Rothko's void, a terminal abyss we may all have stood before. It's a common theme in my early writings, man's tendency to isolate himself from the wilderness. The ocean in Friedrich's painting, is just beyond the monk, hence the sublimity of it, the storm is held at bay, which I submit, is quite delightful. Rothko's glimpses into the void remind us that we haven't fallen in, we haven't submitted to our desire. My early arguments for the void were sophisticated, quoting Foucault, Lyotard, even Carlos Fuentes, I wove a complicated treatise into the sublime, a treatise of fear.

I had no idea then that knafeh even existed. Knafeh is effing sublime. Dante's gluttony. It is so exquisite, so rich, such a wilderness of joy that one might fall to it. As my friend Carol said, "I think I'll cry." Without help, I surely would have succumbed. It is a succubus. I should have died.

So what's the point of all this? To discuss the merits of some other dessert? No.

Our conversation was regarding the high intelligence of Orcas. I brought up the sublime in order to emphasize the idea that we believe ourselves to be separate from nature, to be separate from the animals, to be separate from the wilderness. We are capable of creating constructs to support our beliefs that we are spiritual, intelligent, philosophical beings, and therefore not animals. By "we," of course, I mean the "bright" people in the "West." We are not really in the wild. We are civilized.

I ate a squid the other day, grilled, no less. Ika Shioyaki. I felt like an animal. We are clearly at or near the top of the food chain. Very few other animals would find us to be food. Crows. Vultures, sharks, coyote, polar bears, mountains lions, wolves perhaps. Orcas? I have trouble making sense of the natural order of things. I feel like an animal. Yet we, as a society, have separated ourselves from the animals.

In doing this, we have explained so much. Our management of the animals, the wild lands, the landscape. Our justification of our own intellectual superiority. Our insistence into the management of all of the wild aspects of the earth. We explain our existence, our raison d'etre, as caretakers of this place, the Earth. Haven't we made a few presumptions? Sure, we should take of this place. But, are we sure we are right?

I am in a wilderness, yet I am not an animal. Go figure.

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