Too Much Apparatus
During a game of chess near the end of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Miranda, the fourteen-year-old daughter of Prospero, envisions drunken sailors staggering off the wreckage of a ship. Miranda — a critic of the cultural scene, comments, “O wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world! That has such people in't!
Countless drunken sailors and a few hundred years later, Aldous Huxley, seeing Miranda’s vision in a contemporary conspicuous consumption state of mind, entitled a book of his for that brave new world.
I know how Aldous felt.
Just the other day at Recreational Equipment Incorporated — or REI, to you — I witnessed Miranda’s same goodly creatures staggering around in’t. What were their desires? O wonder! They were buying apparatus to experience their brave new world — shoes designed for every trot and gate, green and red lightweight kayak paddles, Primal Warrior and Cerveza dayglow body hugging cycling jerseys, cross-Country ski waxes, mountain bikes, urban bikes, road bikes, hybrid bikes, helmets and goggles for all things headworthy, bindings and bags galore. Beauteous people, drunken sailors, communicating on smart phones, arranging their lives around their global position systems, pounding their ipads, wedging spandex, mounting tungsten, all with a deep desire to see the world. All with so much apparatus it was a wonder they could see anything at all.
Huxley explained, in his Brave New World, nature’s beauty had one grave defect: it was gratuitous. A love of nature kept no factories busy. Nature was a distraction from buying things. Maximum mass consumption was not fully realized. And so, the Brave New World powers that be, decided to abolish the love of nature; but not to abolish the desire to consume the apparatus that’s used to experience nature. All those powers that be needed was a logic for consumption in the natural world.
And here we are… consuming the logic.
In our brave new world, it’s essential that we buy the gear to go to the river, to the mountains, to the beach, to the desert, even though, in the brand name part of our brain, we act as if we care not for the natural world.
"We condition the masses to hate the country," Huxley wrote. "But simultaneously we condition them to love all country sports. At the same time, we see to it that all country sports shall entail the use of elaborate apparatus.”
Our elaborate apparatus: Our four-wheel drive, nature app, snow board, trike scooter, snow mobile, wingsuit world inhibits us. It runs against the heart of nature which is not in our ogling, our conquest or “so-called” experience of it, but in our understanding of it. In the end, if the site of Toyon bush in downtown Los Angeles doesn’t bring us close to nature, than hiking the John Muir trail fully-geared never will.
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