Nature is Awful

TL:DR - Nature is awful.

The spring lambs have arrived at my parent's farm. They're up to eleven last I heard, with lots of twins.

Little lambs are super cute. They hip, and hop, and wriggle their little tails with what appears to be extreme enthusiasm and pleasure as they drink their mother's milk.

But sometimes, there is an orphan. Not usually because the mother dies, but because the mother abandons their baby immediately after birth. But "abandon" is to simplistic a word. To kind of a word. Even calling the lamb an orphan is a euphemism. But "rejection" as it's commonly used, doesn't seem to convey the appropriate weight of the situation.

This year, it was a little baby ram. A boy. Which makes it all the more stark.

The lambs and mothers are all penned together. New mothers and lambs are added to the nursery pen as new deliveries occur. When I brought my kids up to see them, there were 8 lambs and 6 mothers in the pen.

And here, the orphaned lamb only a few hours old. Efforts to determine his mother had been delayed due to some other minor complications with the other lambs that kept popping out and requiring immediate attention.

It looked thinner than the others. Its skin clinging more closely to its bones, and it was laying down when we arrived, in that still partially curled position that newborns retain from their months of cramped accommodations. But then it stood and tried to nurse. Walking on wobbly legs first to one mother, then another, and another. It couldn't grasp a nipple, mouthing feebly and impotently at the milk bags. And the mothers, one of which was likely even his actual mother, actively tried to stomp on his head if he came close to success. They butted him away with their heads, and kicked at him with their hooves. He was knocked back. He was knocked down. He cried and cried but no one answered.

Only a few hours old, and this was life.

And perhaps the thing that makes humans truly special is that we reject this sort of natural reality, but when it comes to boys, math tries to thwart things too. Lambs, like most all mammalian babies, need to eat pretty much constantly. There is a significant time cost and sleep cost to adopting and bottle feeding an orphaned lamb. And for a boy, the rough cost of the artificial milk formula it takes to get it weened and eating grass and pellets is probably going to run you nearly as much as the lamb will bring in when it goes to slaughter anyway (especially if transport and other costs are taken into consideration).

A little ewe lamb is valuable because she can make more lambs, so the math plays out differently, but a little ram lamb is almost guaranteed to be destined to be meat and no more.

And even if we pull out our hippie drums and vests and say "well this is why everyone should stop eating meat anyway". Or if we peel back the legacy of thousands of years of agriculture and pretend we're in some primal state of nature, the lams will mostly end up as meat anyway. Just for animals that don't happen to be humans. And if, perhaps the ram did grow, herd animals usually run off the males anyway. And by run off, I mean physically beat them until they don't return (or die, or perhaps occasionally win and take the place of the head male).

And so now... two youtube videos:

Here's Werner Herzog talking about the obscenity of the jungle:

And here is a baboon eating a baby impala in front of its mother. It snatched the baby away from her and got up onto some rocks where her hooves couldn't take her. Watch the helpless movements of her legs as she tries in vain to save her baby. Watch the blood subtly paint the babies white stomach redder and redder.

The "balance" of nature is bullshit. The balance of nature is death. Life grows to fill all the space it can, and consume all the resources it can until it starts getting killed by other life that's doing the same thing. The idea of natural "harmony" is bullshit. So many words and phrases we use for the natural world are personifications that we use to dull the edge of its horror.

Look into the black shark eyes and pull from the primal muscle memory of humanity. Tap into the inherent revulsion that's been dulled by constant exposure that plays up the "coolness" of our cultural and technological adoration of controlling powerful things. See them as they are again.

Look at the wolf. See the eyes. The reflection of the light off the retinas. The slope of the shoulders. Languid. Equally ready to pounce towards or bolt away. Big and Bad should not be a synonym for edgy cuteness.

And remember too that these are just the beasts. The "boring" shit. The "fodder" to get XP from in early levels of combat focused RPGs.

Do the monsters you make actually measure up? Are they truly abominations? Or are they actually more tame and restrained and controlled in their neat packages of named attacks and stat blocks?


  1. Herzog's passage on the jungle is something I've quoted and shared many times over the years, especially when I was running jungle-set games. It's such amazing eloquence on the horror of life.

    Also: when I die I want to be eaten and returned to the grinder, as payment for all the grinding I've done. I just don't want to be alive when that payment is made.


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