In a certain way, I think the likes of Herman Herman — for whom “‘though in many of its aspects this visible world seems formed in love, the invisible spheres were formed in fright” — might very well agree with the cynicism, much bemoaned & beloved, expressed by Michael Houellebecq about nature.
I have no time for those pompous imbeciles
Who go into ecstasies before bunnies’ burrows
Because nature is ugly, tedious and hostile;
It has no message to transmit to humans.
How pleasant, at the wheel of a powerful Mercedes,
To drive through solitary and grandiose places;
Subtly manipulating the gearstick.
You dominate the hills, the rivers, and all things.
The forests, so close, glitter in the sun
And seem to reflect ancient knowledges;
In the depths of their valleys must lie such marvels,
After a few hours you are taken in;
Leaving the car, the irritations begin;
You stumble into the middle of a repugnant mess,
An abject universe, deprived of all meaning
Made of stones and brambles, flies and snakes.
You miss the parking-lots and the smell of petrol,
The serene, gentle glint of the nickel counters;
It’s too late. It’s too cold. The night begins. The forest enfolds you in its cruel dream. (via Collapse IV)
Reading this today, I most immediately thought of Lewis Mumford’s wonderful bit comparing Ralph Waldo Emerson and Melville:
Emerson was the perpetual passenger who stayed below in bad weather, trusting that the captain would take care of the ship. Melville was the sailor who climbed aloft, and knew that the captain was sometimes drunk and that the best of ships might go down.
Where the lesson of one such captain, Ahab, drunk with monomania if not drink, was that the “pasteboard mask” covering such truth might ultimately be there for a reason, and that one should strike through it with care; it seems to me that Houellebecq exemplifies one possibility of what becomes of us when there is no mask at all, when it, perhaps, has already been stricken.