Two weeks ago Thursday I had what they call a mild stroke that ended me up in the hospital for five days. It came out of the blue, as 55 seems a young age for that sort of thing. But only now did I learn that this is considered a prime age for genetic history and stress to catch up with a person. I wasn’t aware of any cardiovascular trouble; I’m not a smoker or heavy drinker; I’ve always been physically active–skiing, hiking and other outdoor activities; and I’ve been vegan for nearly twenty years. The only thing I can think of is that since I’ve immersed myself in the plight of animals and the Earth and fully taken on the animal rights cause, I’ve had a lot of unresolved stress. Different people respond to stress differently, and for me it came out as a partial cardiovascular meltdown.
I’m recovering rapidly, but I still feel the effects of this on my left side and sometimes can hear it in my speech. Since it has been recommended that I read aloud, I’m going to read to my typist from John A. Livingston’s 1994 book, Rogue Primate:
“…Nature is complex and multispecific; the human environment is essentially simple and monospecific. True, there may be trees and shrubs and gardens where people live, a scattering of squirrels and starlings and pets, and sun and rain and snow, but the overwhelming presence is that of ourselves and our fabrications.
“This is most easily demonstrated in terms of sensory nourishment we receive in urban concentrations. Virtually everything we see, hear, smell, touch, and taste is of our own making. Worse, most of it is not even delivered to us by people; the bulk of nutrition for our senses is mediated by machines. A teenager sits on a concrete slab, feet resting on asphalt, eyes closed, hands clutching a plastic case, breathing swirling exhaust fumes, a headset piercing and battering both eardrums with screaming, shattering dissonance at a frightening decibel level.
“Everything this youngster sees, hears, smells, touches, and tastes is a human artifact. His unidimensional experiential universe is one of homogenous, monospecific mass, with not the slightest differentiation. His sense organs, blunted as they are, need not be able to discriminate in any case; there is nothing to discriminate between. There is searing colour to be sure, and cacophony, and heat and cold, and there are strange metallic flavours, and surfaces smooth and rough, and there is terrible, unending qualitative sameness.
“Across the street there is a ‘park’ (a rectangle of mown lawn). On a bench lies a derelict, inert, unconscious and oblivious, his empty grail of solace is in its brown wrapper on the grass beneath him. As a child he may have encountered Nature. He may have once been wild. Perhaps he still is. Overlooking him there is a gigantic edifice of glass and steel, with guards and security monitors and air-conditioned seven-dollar-figure condominiums with chrome strips and tinted windows and mirrored walls, and with live beings actually inhabiting them. Behind, in a brick-walled protective enclosure, there is a children’s playground, with brightly painted climbing and crawling structures of metal pipe, padded with something made from synthetic polymers. There are sensate beings here, too. Little ones.
“I have described elsewhere what I call a kind of urban ‘sensory deprivation,’ and the perceptual (and thus conceptual) aberrations that follow from it. When perceptual and conceptual aberrations are shared across a society, they may be seen as institutionalized delusions. There are many of these in contemporary society, but none is more important, or more ironical, than the belief that high-tech urban ‘progress’ (i.e., emancipation from non-human environmental influences) is a major human achievement. R. D. Laing has said, ‘Human beings seem to have an almost unlimited capacity to deceive themselves, and to deceive themselves into taking their own lies for truth.’ It would appear that we have travelled so far in our cultural self-deceit that we actually believe we have no need of sensory stimulation or nutrition beyond that provided by ourselves. No need for experience of any influence that is not of human design and fabrication.
“Our willing (and indeed prideful) confinement within the many-mirrored echo-chamber of technological servitude is a towering irony, perhaps the ultimate in self-deceit. Like the feedlot steer in the dreary monotony of his experiential desert, we have lost all connection with being, all memory of sensibility of life context.”
Unlike the steer, humans have chosen this “life.”