MY HOME IN SOUTHERN UTAH was located in the central western area of the huge Colorado Plateau, the high desert that takes up much of the Four Corners section of the country (see map). Of all the noted national parks and monuments that exist within that sprawling, desolate region, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was in my backyard. It was a place to wander and submit yourself to the merciless immensity of it all, a place to realize what Terry Tempest Williams meant when she wrote that “every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self.” That is because you have bared yourself to the most elemental of natural surroundings, exposed yourself to the oppression of the heat and the unforgiving nature of a wilderness that can cause you to focus on everything that you have ever lacked and everything that you have ever wanted and, in the process, turn you inside out from the dreams of your past. The desert simplifies you, narrows your thoughts as if you’re squeezing through a red rock slot canyon, turns you eventually into a sort of weekend survivalist communing with lizards and agave, creosote and yucca, and lots of cloudless sky. When you walk into the desert, you are leaving everything you have ever grown used to behind, and if you stay long enough within its thrall, you will walk out a more complete person, nothing like perfect, but at least better than you were. It is where you come to realize and accept the proposition that environmental issues ought to take precedence over economic ones, at least once in a while, at least enough to preserve such natural wonders as are found on the Colorado Plateau and protect them forever from the imprecations of the drillers and the corporate shitheads. The wilderness, Ed Abbey said, may be “the only thing left that is worth saving.”
Thank you so much for sharing yet another brilliant description of one of your favourite places and the effect that these have upon you and, whilst I have never visited this area, I can get the feeling of it from your eloquent rendition.
Some of the concepts you elucidate, I can relate to in the totally different environment of human-beings who, with over population and destruction of the environment, appear to be making the planet like a desert, with people replacing the grains of sand.
Baring this concept in mind, as I wander in my own ‘backyard’, it is increasingly becoming a sprawling, desolate region of tarmac, concrete, steel and people. Thus, we are forced to submit ourselves to the merciless immensity of it all.
Living and exposing ourselves to such an ever-more ‘oppressive’ environment can indeed encourage us to ‘focus on everything that we have ever lacked and everything that we have ever wanted and, in the process, turn us inside out from the dreams of our past’.
This human-made desert, does tend to simplify and narrow the thinking processes to a ‘survival strategy’. Unfortunately, unlike the natural deserts you describe, what used to be termed the ‘urban jungle’ is fast becoming the ‘urban desert’.
This overpopulated, self- destroying collective, is being exploited by those who have designs on ruling anything and everything, including our minds. They are making it into a ‘mono-culture’ reminiscent of the ‘deserts’ you describe, but without the inherent, natural ‘beauty’.
For someone like me, who tries to encourage individuals to think for themselves rather than be ‘told/taught’ what they should think, this ‘desertification’ is not perceived to be a positive way forward.
I did jot down a few thoughts on the subject some time ago, so I am grateful that you have presented me with the opportunity to share my own thoughts on the expanding ‘desert’ in which I live.
MONO-THOUGHT & MONO-CULTURE.
Some people simply do not think.
Beyond one train of thought.
They cling to this and do not blink.
All else amounts to nought.
This first begins within one mind.
Within one person’s head.
But then they search to try to find.
Ways by which to spread.
One problem is, they think they’re ‘right’.
And others must be wrong.
Then they think that they should fight.
So other’s join their throng.
I’ll take the individual first.
To ask what’s going on.
Let’s analyse their best and worst.
Work out why reason’s gone.
Usually I use a coin.
To illustrate this point.
Disparate concepts can enjoin.
Make heads and tails conjoint.
When people have one point of view.
And cannot empathise.
Even though their thoughts are slewed.
They’ll try to legitimise.
They need for all to think the same.
And cannot be empathic.
In days gone by they had a name.
They were psychopathic.
Mini, minor, mono- thoughts.
Will just one way portray.
If they can find enough cohorts.
They sometimes win the day.
Then we’ll have a sub-culture.
With thoughts all much the same.
All embracing monoculture.
A shame, but who’s to blame.
Just like the ever rolling pine.
And fields of oil seed rape.
A mono-crop’s a Frankenstein.
Not easy to escape.
Everything it trys to smother
So nothing else will grow.
It has no time for any other.
Or for what they know.
They perfect the art of killing.
All that’s different.
For they’re rarely ever willing.
To be tolerant.
Once they have established laws.
And ways of doing things.
They will wage relentless wars.
Therein lay the stings.
They cannot seem to be content.
To hold their view alone.
They will not tolerate descent.
Within their mono-zone.
So all free thinkers must beware.
Of mono-minded men.
So sadly short of savoir-faire.
And lacking acumen.
Do not let them rise and rule.
And don’t let them preside.
For they will treat you like a fool.
Your will will override.
Let’s create a land where we.
Can all have equal sway.
A land where everyone is free
To choose a different way.
Let us come to recognise
That ‘free’ means more not less.
And ‘mono’ will epitomise.
Cognition in a mess.
B. WITHERS 2007
(In ‘Contemplation’ 2010)
Interesting post , we are all part of the natural environment which I would like to think that the saying Ashe's to ashes dust to dust comes from. Its amazing how we can feel so calm and at ease in mother nature's valley. Xx