Sunday, October 6, 2013

30 Days of Halloween - Day 5: Monster Planet

Love of monsters has led me to a love of the environment.  Let me see if I can explain.  Yesterday I pointed out how monsters have the potential to put us in touch with the supernatural world.  Today I want to point out that they can equally put us in touch with the ‘natural’ world. 

I’ve been enthralled by monsters since I was a little boy and my favourites have usually been the visceral and bestial kind:  giant primordial specimens like Godzilla and King Kong; half-human/half-animal creatures like werewolves and the Human Fly and centaurs and minotaurs; monsters that rise from the depths of swamps and lakes and oceans; creatures with monstrous wings that descend from the night sky; fearful dwellers in caves and pits; and things just generally covered in fur or scales, with too many eyes or too many limbs, and fitted out with all the deadly accoutrements of fangs and claws and horns and pincers and stings and tentacles and suckers and the like.

Lovingly relishing all that monstrous physiognomy led me to admire the real creatures in the real world from which such skin-crawling features are drawn:  bears, wolves, bats, snakes, insects, buffalo, goats, lions, panthers, gorillas, rhinos, alligators, piranhas, sharks, squid, crabs, eels, jellyfish, spiders, scorpions, boars, jackals, wolverines, and on and on and on.  (Of course, I appreciate more ‘cute’ or ‘elegant’ wildlife too—and creatures that blur the categories:  like the creepy-comic-majestic owl.)  Through delighted contemplation of monsters I have over the years become far more aware of the ubiquitous animal life all around us.

And not only animal life, but all non-human life:  plants and trees and fungi and algae, etc.—as well as all that populates the beautifully freakish microscopic world (ever seen a tardigrade? it’s real!).  Monsters led me even further, into awareness and appreciation of the formations and forces and phenomena of the non-organic world:  mountains and minerals and molecules and deserts and lightning and clouds and tornadoes and seas and lochs and fog and fire and so on—right out into the amazing world of ‘outer space’, with its endless spread of stars and quasars and nebulae and black holes and planets. 

I’m not saying monsters are the only way into consciousness and admiration of ecology and cosmology.  But they can be.  And monsters can not only make us aware but help us respect our weird and wondrous natural world.  Why?  Because if you’ve learned to like monsters, then you’ve learned to like things that are very different from you and that you can’t control.  You’ve come to exult in strange and wildly beautiful things just because they exist.  ‘Destroy All Monsters’ need not be our battle cry.  Some of them may indeed need to be fought and ‘tamed’ or harnessed by any wisdom and stewardship we can bring to bear.  But if we love monsters, then we will proceed with humility and curiosity and desire for ecological harmony rather than ecological rape and domination and wastefulness.