In her article “A Shark in the Mind of One Contemplating Wilderness”, Terry Tempest Williams effectively defines what an “art” is and what is not. It goes beyond its traditional definition as a product of human creativity in which materials are outlined and selected to convey visually interesting forms. Williams reveals the ongoing battle within the biodiversity – human versus nature – and equates human life to the characters in the wild to create a vivid description of Art. Like a shark suspended in formaldehyde and being viewed as a unique work of art, Williams sees the same scenario for human beings when nature is totally devastated.
Who’s to blame? The increased level of extinction that is likely to lead to the disappearance of about two-thirds of all kinds of living organisms by the end of the next century is driven by only one species: human (Raven 4). Human is inseparable from nature. His survival depends inextricably on other life forms. Life is the common force that connects man to animals. Williams recognizes this connection through an encounter with a shark in a tank, “I press my hands on the glass, waiting for the shark to pass by again, and when it does I feel my own heart beating against the mind of this creature that kills. However, this bond is unfastened little by little by man’s activities that are detrimental to the nature. Civilization overwhelms man that he neglects the reality that his existence rests on the subsistence of the natural world. Rather than protecting his source of life, he becomes the author of its destruction. Logging and mining, whether legal or illegal, are two of the most common damaging human activities. For pharmaceutical companies, “Wilderness is a cabinet of pharmaceuticals waiting to be discovered. ”
Taking her own experience where an open space once used by children to lie on their backs was now converted to a food court, Williams realized how fast people can transform something into another thing. Quoting her observation, “What was never before seen as art, as dance, as a painting in motion, but imagined only through the calculations of biologists, their facts now metamorphosed into designs…. ” Just imagine how man has gotten so much from the nature and exploited a very huge part of it. As Williams noted, “The natural world is becoming invisible, appearing only as a backdrop for our own human dramas and catastrophes. Landslides, flashfloods, earthquakes, and tornadoes are signs that nature is too much burdened of man’s destructive activities. Wilderness is a work of art. People shape this natural wasteland just like how an artist makes a mosaic. The development of agricultural lands into subdivisions, the burning of forests to produce industrial materials, and even the changing color of water in the rivers from blue to black, reflect how an artist designs and colors his work. “What is true for wilderness remains true for humans. Human society is the mosaic of field and forest, of city blocks, of subway tiles.
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It is to this mosaic that we should turn in order to understand what it really means to be human” (Amato-Grill 5). Like humans, other forms of life need a habitat where they can build their own community. “We are animals, in search of a home, in relationship to Other, an expanding community with a mosaic of habitats, domestic and wild,” Williams explained. In the same way that we have seen performances on stage, we have set our eyes on how the leaves of the trees dance in the wind, how animals hide and catch their prey, how whales and fishes create waves in the oceans, and how flowers patiently wait for its bud to bloom.
Wilderness, according to Williams, is a grand piece of performance art that can embody or inspire. To preserve them is to let the next generation witness the grand performance arts of nature. The nature is a work of art itself creatively designed and created by its Artist. It is a spring of inspiration for the artists who are also masterpieces of the One who created the nature. Art, as implicitly described by Williams on her article, is the exploration yet preservation of these natural creations.
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