While writing on faith and nature I have come upon some unexpected and disturbing things. Now human beings are turning to a crocodile to predict election outcomes. I wrote about Paul the Octopus before, but somehow it didn’t seem this bad. First of all, octopuses are considered to be somewhat intelligent creatures and Paul was predicting a somewhat trivial matter – soccer. (As a wise priest once said, soccer is the most important thing of things that are not important). But to have a crocodile, as dumb as they are and look, predict poll outcomes is disturbing! You need to watch the video of how this divining method is undertaken. What if Paul predicts if he will be eaten by a crocodile or not. Then we should hang two octopuses for Dirty Harry to choose from, one of which is Paul. In this way we can discover which is the most psychic of them all.
More seriously, this seeking for wisdom in nature is an intriguing phenomenon. Emerson thought of it a long time ago, but I never thought it would become so popular in such unusual ways. In a book called Faith in Nature, Thomas Dunlap comments on this idea expressed by Emerson and embraced by environmentalists ever since:
“With compelling metaphors and striking aphorisms, he [Emerson] described nature as refuge, instructor, and source of wisdom… Our ties to nature were more than personal or physical – they were metaphysical. [Quoting Emerson directly] “there is a radical correspondence between visible things and human thoughts…. Every natural fact is a symbol for some spiritual fact… The whole of nature is a metaphor of the human mind. The laws of moral nature answer to those of matter as face to face in a glass” (p. 47)
I hope I am seeing things here and that there is no connection between Dirty Harry (the croc), Paul (the octopus) and Emerson (one of the most influential Romantic thinkers). Surely Emerson did not envision this sort of crudely ‘direct’ wisdom from nature. What is scary is that we may…