“Human place in nature” is a topic I’m semi-obsessed with right now, and though it seems sorta esoteric, I think the issue has huge implications for gardeners and designers.
Here’s what got me all stirred up this time.
I just finished showing the 2005 film Grizzly Man to my English classes as part of a unit on documentary film. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s the story of the life and death of Timothy Treadwell, a self-proclaimed “kind warrior” who lived with the Grizzly bears in Katmai, Alaska for 13 summers in order to study and protect them.
Although Treadwell had a genuine love for animals and appeared to have better relationships with the bears than with other humans, he was actually killed and eaten by a Grizzly in October 2003.
Treadwell’s violent and somewhat ironic death is part of what makes the film fascinating, as is the question of whether he was a courageous hero or a lunatic narcissist. But as I was watching the film with my classes this week, I was more intrigued by something else.
The director of the film, Werner Herzog, clearly felt that Treadwell was — if not a lunatic — at least a misguided idealist. Though he might have had some sympathy for Treadwell, Herzog did not share the “kind warrior’s” warm fuzzy feelings about the natural world. In his narration of the film, Herzog makes some bone-chilling statements about nature — statements that are in direct opposition to Timothy Treadwell’s romantic view of wilderness. After a segment of the film in which a male grizzly kills a cub, Herzog reflects:
“I believe the common denominator of the universe is not harmony, but chaos, hostility, and murder.”
When Treadwell looked into the eyes of a Grizzly, he saw a kindred spirit, a friend, a brother. Herzog saw no such thing, just “the overwhelming indifference of nature.”