It’s snowing here. We get a little snow every now and then to remind us that skin is no protection against nature and how vulnerable we would be without heat, light and food on tap. Without easy access to those things many of us would die because we have forgotten how to survive.
I could go on about dystopian and ‘survivor’ novels, but I’ll save you that dubious pleasure for another time. I vaguely remember someone, Marx or Mao or the writers of ‘Red Dwarf’ Series 3, saying ‘All societies are only three meals away from revolution’ or the like and thinking that I could substitute several Big Macs for ‘three meals’ without loss of meaning or result.
The snow cares not where it falls, but when I look at it transforming the familiar view through my window into something that a childish part of my mind says is beautiful, then I also think about the homeless sheltering from that beauty, as it mindlessly tries to kill them.
I live in a rural area and for the homeless here there are fewer places to escape nature than there are in the city. Every winter, with a regularity that suggests premeditation, an unfortunate is found frozen to death behind a stone wall, in a field or even a doorway and the death is recorded as misadventure. I doubt that person’s life was much of an adventure (I might be wrong), but to dismiss it with an innocuous word like ‘misadventure’ is an insult to the dead. Perhaps we should call it manslaughter or culpable homicide – in the Scottish legal sense – since we all partook in the death, by omission, or just by being too busy to notice someone slip from being a live human to being a dead misadventure.
But the snow doesn’t care what you call its effect.
Like so much of nature, it has its own agenda. Or maybe it only appears to have any agenda at all.
So, when some of my friends talk about Gaia and the Earth as if both were human, I’m reminded of how we anthropomorphise animals as if they were human, too. I’m as guilty as anyone with my tales of William the Cat, because it’s easier to imagine him being purposeful in a cognitive manner and planning his exploits i.e. killing living creatures, than it is to see him as a pre-programmed machine slaughtering that which moves across his field of vision and is invariably defenceless.
I don’t know which version is true, but I suspect that William would have little compunction in biting my head off if I were the size of a bank vole or he were the size of a tiger. If you haven’t seen the movie ‘The Life of Pi’ by the way, go and see it, if only for the superbly animated tiger and an example of how both the writer and director tread the anthropomorphic line with great skill and only retreat into sentiment for the sake of the audience. There are some important differences between the book and the film, but I’ll leave you to discover them.
The snow is now driving across my window, the sky is grey and darkness has descended into this corner of Derbyshire. When it’s done it’s thing I’ll admire how clean the world is and forget, for just a moment, that it’s not and that we are very old in our sins.
My new novel is started and there will be good people, bad people and many people who are both, if either term has any absolute meaning. The snow doesn’t care who or what they are: it would kill them all without favouritism, without feeling, without guilt, because it is not human. Like William.
That thought might depress me but the sun has just broken through and there are drips of water from the guttering. One of my surviving robins has made an appearance and is tucking into a soggy piece of burnt – but organic – home made bread and eyeing me with the mistrust of the very small for the very big. Is he a machine, too? I have no idea because I don’t know if that thought is the thought of yet another machine.
When the gods went back to Valhalla, they forgot to tell us.
Ps. I scribbled this yesterday and today all the snow has gone and the sun is shining in a ‘trust me, but keep the thermal underwear on’ way. Haha! The gods were listening! Or it might just be another tweak of my programming.
Distantly, I can see leaden clouds, so perhaps I should have kept my mechanical mouth shut.