Gaslighting Nature

Punit Pania
6 min readJan 3, 2022

If nature could talk the condemnation it would give us would be the most tragically beautiful poem. But it doesn’t need to. Thankfully, only we are cursed with language. An inefficient means of obfuscation more than then communication. We almost never say what we mean and we are often not even sure what we mean. The rare occasions when we are, words fall short.

Words are cheap, which is a strange thing for a comic to say. But comics do say almost exclusively strange things. Because laughter remains the only sane response in the face of absurdity and oblivion. What can be more absurd than a world that worships nature and yet lives soaked in its slaughter? We will only stop plundering if a natural calamity decimates us. And even then there will be the hope of migrating to Mars so we can completely absolve ourselves of the debauchery that has drowned the planet. Isn’t it clear that all the activism and accords are not nearly going to add up to anything substantial. A single meal at a fast food joint shows you the amount of plastic we are using and throwing away is beyond capacity.

One might say it is madness but really; it is only greed. In times of scarcity it manifests as survival instinct. In times of abundance it manifests as guilt. But it never goes away. We have used the very tools nature gave us to murder her in cold blood. Now no amount of poetry can save us. Because guilt, sin and even beauty are our own inventions. Nature is purely indifferent.

What greater tragedy than your victim not even knowing that it has been wronged and yet you not being able to stop yourself from stabbing her? The only real hell is the one we create for ourselves collectively. Sufis and poets write about being one with nature and we include these verses in school textbooks. But are we really ever able to feel a connection? From painters to travel bloggers are we not just chasing someone’s vague description of a good trip while trying to monetize whatever sober images we have tried to capture? It’s a copy of a copy of a copy, even while being face to face with the original, yet not really being able to connect to it.

The recent obsession with pet dogs and cats; as telling as it is of our loneliness, ain’t nearly going to be enough. But it does give us a glimpse of the comfort nature can provide. But for that we have to let go of ourselves and the petty little autobiographies running in our heads.

There is no beauty without endings. And our stories have endings because our lives have endings. Against the constant countdown of a mortal existence the only inevitable response seems to be: More, Bigger, Faster, Now! All the drama in our lives and our art comes from this doomed wish to experience the whole universe in one flicker of a lifetime. We glorify it as ambition and endeavor but is it worth all the misery? Glory is always individual, CO2 levels are collective.

A stray look at the infertility rates will tell you how mired we are in the fall-out of our own industry. As a biological entity if a significant percentage of us can’t even procreate without lab interventions, how alive are we in the first place? The population is still increasing of course and we are getting better and better at preventing fatalities but there is largely only strife in between. We have as many inventions for safety as for killing and hurting each other.

Childish arguments like we wouldn’t be here and you wouldn’t be able to write this blog without money and capitalism come from an extreme us and them approach. But the clear fact is that everything from the market to history and the state of the environment are an aggregate of all of our actions and intentions. nothing exists in a vacuum. To think that ideologies exist separately and at odds to each other is to not look broadly enough.

You have to stop participating in the madness yourself. Not because it’s the right thing to do. If anything, the belief that one can or should change the world; for better or for worse, is the root of all tragedy. You exit for your own sanity. Embrace a new kind of selfishness. One with minimal violence and hopefully lesser carbon footprint.

It is like taking out earphones you had forgotten you were wearing. Once you do it, it will seem like suicide to plug back into the noise. Some people do it through sustainable living, some people do it through art. Anything that helps you unlearn while making ends meet. It’s a long journey that ought to end with the realization that time itself is our invention. Of course, things end but nostalgia about the past and stress about the future cannot be the only two states of your mind. We are always analyzing life, never actually living it. Once you understand that; experientially, not just intellectually, then all intrigues, anxieties and fears melt away. All that remains is an awareness that doesn’t need to feel superior or even individual. You are either infinitely patient and empathetic or you are not. Anything in the middle is just guile.

Perhaps I should rather retire to a cave in the Himalayas instead of writing all this out in a blog that needs server space. The problem is that even the cave is already littered with chips packets. There are almost no physical sanctuaries left, our noise pervades right up to Everest. But the mind can take leaps regardless of its environs. There is some hope in therapy. Since the market is designed to keep you from reading and any deep thoughts, at least a professional can ground you. Unlike earlier religions, therapy does not keep the backdoor open for cults and violence, assuming Freud is never resurrecting. Largely because therapy doesn’t promise happiness or deliverance. The only real outcome it seeks is awareness.

It is not a magic pill but at least it allows you the freedom to be miserable on your own terms. So we don’t blame others; especially minorities and women. The only worthy end goal is indifference. Not a stylish irreverence. But a genuine dignified indifference, just like nature itself. That; perhaps, is the only way we can stop gaslighting her.

  • Punit Pania