Hello hello! I know–totally cliche, this absence. But listen, promises are like water; and many things have been happening out there among the parked cars and trees and things. I hope this still finds you, in whatever place you are.
Let me tell you, I got married. Twas lovely and deep and long, and I’ve been travelling and generally on a hiatus, but let me cut right to it: I’ve also been watching a lot of BBC Life and Planet Earth, and the long affairs I’ve had in their various wildernesses brings me to our engagement. Here is a clip from Planet Earth, an immense landscape and drama.
My question: Planet Earth and BBC Life bring vast audiences amazingly remote and unique phenomenon in stunning (as the parlance goes) hi-definition, technologically advanced media. Unlike some of Attenborough’s other nature programs, Planet Earth and BBC Life are in fact relatively thin on really detailed information about biology and ecology, opting instead for what feel like constant introductions to some of the most unique and artful and dramatic events and individuals on the planet. I think this is a very intelligent approach, and I think this because I think it is savvy and fits exactly today’s audiences’ needs. I know much of this is another conversation about the difficulties of something like Infinite Jest, where the hi-def and the dazzling in mass media are narcotic inhibitors of some other, more wildly enriched, deep and clear and true existence (stunning indeed). But where most, in my mind, manifestations of this trope provide no real other alternative than something, at best, imagined, or more often relegated to a small sect of either enlightened or simply unwilling individuals and their microsociety (think of any dystopian sci-fi), BBC’s groundbreaking programs not only provide an absolutely real alternative, well, they are completely about them. Now the content here varies. One can certainly say, if having watched any of the features on the birds of paradise in Papua New Guinea, that the subject perfectly folds into the medium’s “dazzling” qualities. And maybe this is why such features, specifically, are the most widely known–because the subject of them is so well married to the medium. But when I watch that wolf hunt, I feel something different, that immense landscape, the cold and the wind and the absolute shortness of time–and that is its own kind of reassurance to me. I envy that landscape for its simplicity, its blunt rules, even as I feel them most deeply because of the abundance of the world I live in and the access it provides. It’s a feeling that I recognize, that comes to me in books, but more so, anytime, basically, I am alone and out of doors. And above that, all of this, content and desire, tastes and opinions and associations and the wonder of it all and having to make one’s way through. So I hold these nature programs as one of those things, as a unit in my cultural currency, even as I am conscious that my literateness and sophistication bely a world that has little difference from the animals I watch, in both’s subjection to vicissitudes, the take and have taken. So I am left with a peculiar sense–that I am glad for the candy and glad for the lesson as well, but also, that I am hopelessly lost, that both must always come paired. It’s a question of authenticity as it exists as a noun, free of that which it describes. I suppose.
Or perhaps the real irony is that, if you are conscious of the high technical quality of these programs, you are also conscious that such advances mark a very particular point in time, ours, now, when no doubt nature is in peril. This could be, in essence, a funeral. I don’t think we want to think this, and I’ll leave it at that–as the great problem not by BBC’s programs, but certainly brought forth through them. In the end, I think we are better for watching such testaments, that they might, indeed, live within us, be something that amazes us still.