Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Living With Vipers

Scott Bradley

I don't know why I love Nature, but I do. I understand Nature as Tao manifest, but this is not why I love it. Perhaps it is because I realize it is me. The love is visceral. And for this reason I assume that all humans love Nature, though some are more alienated from its beautiful presence than others.

Nature does present us with a challenge, however. It is not only those things which fill us with awe — wildflowers and fawns and towering peaks — but also those which fill us with dread — cruelty and death and supreme indifference. Yet, if we truly love and appreciate Nature, then nothing in Nature is not loved and appreciated. In harmonizing with this most immediate expression of our perceived reality, we learn what it is to harmonize with all that is.

Though it may, through Nature, have become in some sense transcendent of Nature, humanity, too, is Nature. And, like Nature, it is Tao manifest. This also presents us with a challenge; for there is much in and among us that fills us with dread and pain. Somehow we must learn to accept and harmonize with even this.

This summer three rattlesnakes were transported off the ranch. Two were discovered nearly underfoot, one in the ranch house itself. Sometimes we must take measures to protect ourselves from even that which we love. Yet because we love them, we do not needlessly destroy them.

Sometimes, too, we must protect ourselves from other people who would do us harm. Sometimes we remove them; sometimes we are able to simply remove ourselves. In every case, however, we are aware that they are also us. And we are but manifestations of a greater whole. There is always an all-inclusive heart-embrace bigger than every required exclusion.

There are also vipers within us. How should we live with them? Just as we live with those in Nature and in the behavior of our fellows. Acceptance and affirmation, openness and inclusion, these are the way of the valley. This is the weakness that overcomes the strong.

When Mike, our resident snake-whisperer, was about to capture a rattlesnake beside his cabin, I was anticipating a hair-raising drama. Instead he simply provided an overturned 5-gallon bucket as a safe place to go, and the snake entered with nary a rattle.

I was a bit disappointed. The sound of that rattle, however safe I know myself to be, never fails to give me a dreadful thrill. We love drama — right and wrong must wage their endless war or we might fade away. Turn on the tube; whatever might supposedly be resolved today, will only be renewed tomorrow. The way of the valley won’t be showing any time soon.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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