The Beauty of Subjectivity--For All Nature Writers
My Ecological Imaginings Class at Bryn College led me to an amazing adventure, rather than journey, to explore the concepts of nature and write about it. The most important thing that I have noticed, after writing essays and participating in class discussions, is that there should be no scale for writing nature when we are thinking ecologically. It is important for every nature writer to know that there is always an essential and unavoidable diversity in writings due to various personal background and beliefs, and what we should try to do is, rather than objecting other peoples’ opinions severely, developing new ideas based on them.
The author of almost every reading material for our class was trying to tell us how we “should” perceive the relationship between human and nature or what the standard of “good, natural” writing is, and it had taken me a long time before I realized that I could academically benefit from their seemingly judgmental ideas. In his introduction to The Dream of the Earth, Thomas Berry wrote that “we must now understand that our own well-being can be achieved only through the well-being of the entire natural world about us” (<?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />
Also, when discussing my own paper with my classmates, we often have diverting opinions. For example, while discussing an individual paper, I felt Shengjia Zhu’s essay was a little limited by the given questions, but she thought I should take more effort to answer them. The structures of our papers were completely different and the ideas were developed in various logic patterns even when we were writing the same topic. In addition, at the end of the semester I found that every one in the class took a unique route through the semester to accomplish the adventure of Ecological Imaginings. When I exchanged the analytical essay on site reflections with Elizabeth, I found that her opinions had achieved a smooth, gradual shift from egocentrism to deep ecology, while mine had been spontaneous jumping between ideas throughout the semester. I didn’t like to hear negative comments, nor did anyone else in our class. However, after we reluctantly tried to partially accept them as instructed, we were surprised. Our individual pieces of writings have different style, and as the semester had passed, each person has made pieces of ideas into a unique collage of ecological exploration.
There were conflicts, arguments, discussions, but no ultimate solutions could be generated, since perceiving and thus writing nature involve individual thinking. While writing nature, some people tend to go to extremes. Accordingly, other people would support or object, at least partially, their opinions. Then, new ideas were came up, and the process continues.
I think my literary “interaction” with Gary Snyder could be a perfect example of developing new ideas based on old ones that I didn’t like at first. After reading Snyder’s essay on “Unnatural Writing”, I became interested in his comparison of natural with unnatural writing. Since I was asked to “Use Snyder's terms to characterize what you(I) wrote” in class assignment (Dalke, “Ecological Imaginings ESEM”), I experimented with Snyder’s idea, tried to change the order of paragraphs I wrote back into its chaotic pieces and examined what was lost and gained by changing ordinary writing into the natural writing Snyder was talking about. Doing so gave me the idea of “Green House Language”. Snyder has defined wild language as alluding “to a process of self-organization that generates systems and organisms”; it is a kind of language that “does not impose order on a chaotic universe, but reflects its own wildness back” (Snyder, 174). I based my concept “Green House Language” on this idea. In addition to obeying most of the order of cognition process proposed by Snyder, I have used parallelism format like “More people, more laughters, more trees” (Zou, “Chaotic”) to put words in the order of increasing emotional attachment. This form of writing, so far, has been the best one for me to express my thinking and emotional process in my poem. I explicitly say“the best for me” to emphasize that I was being subjective.
Although I used to feel that serious writing is all about being objective, I have now learnt that this is not entirely the truth. Subjective opinions do play an important role in writing, especially writing nature, as every single person thinks in a unique dimension. These opinions contribute to people’s learning and thinking process, and are the foundations of new ideas generated in the future. In general, if everyone could give up fighting about which nature view is “right” and realize the important role diversity plays in the idea generating process while reading or creating literature works about nature, more beautiful, playful natural language that enriches our soul will be created.
Berry, Thomas. “Introduction”, The Dream of the Earth.
Cook, Barbara J. “Teaching the Trees: How to Be a Female Nature Writer”, Women Writing Nature: A Feminist View. Lanham, MD. Lexington Books, 2008. P.#s
Snyder, Gary. “Language Goes
Dalke, Anne. “Ecological Imaginings ESEM.” Serendip Studio. 10 May. 2012.
<http:// serendip.brynmawr.edu /exchange/courses/esem/f12>
Zou, Wanhong. “Chaotic.” Serendip Studio. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/chaotic>.