More from Paul Rezendes…

Domestic corn is not a viable species. If it were left to grow all by itself in the wild, it would soon become extinct. Wild corn, though it didn’t grow as high or produce as many bushels per acre, was nonetheless a viable species. It withstood every natural predator nature could throw at it. It was eaten by wild animals, infested by insects, beset by fungi, drowned by flooding rivers, parched by droughts, and frozen by frosts, and still it survived. Its predators were not bad; its predators made it what it was.

Should we manage wildlife as we manage corn, by removing its natural predators? Do we want herds of white-tailed deer to be like the cows in our fields? What makes a deer a deer? Where did it get its speed, agility, and grace? What gave the bighorn its sense of balance and the moose and bison their size and power? How did the porcupine come to be? Many of the very qualities we associate with wild animals evolved as responses to predators; the deer’s speed and agility and the sheep’s acrobatics are escape tactics; the moose’s and bison’s strength is useful for fending off attacking wolves; a porcupine’s quills are its armor. If we remove their predators, we remove the very forces that made them the animals we admire.

This applies not just to other species, but to ourselves as well. As we pursue the life of convenience and leisure we think leads to happiness, we should consider what challenges have made us strong (resilient, resourceful, independent, self-reliant), and what will keep us that way.

Which leads me to another book I’ve been reading, Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America
, on work:

But is work something that we have a right to escape? And can we escape it with impunity? We are probably the first entire people ever to think so. All the ancient wisdom that has come down to us counsels otherwise. It tells us that work is necessary to us, as much a part of our condition as mortality; that good work is our salvation and our joy; that shoddy or dishonest or self-serving work is our curse and our doom. We have tried to escape the sweat and sorrow promised in Genesis – only to find that, in order to do so, we must forswear love and excellence, health and joy.