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Barry Lopez, in “The Naturalist” explains what it means to be a naturalist, the expectations a naturalist, and the modern naturalist’s ideology. He speaks of how knowledge is best gained, which he believes is through “enormously time-consuming” (“The Naturalist” 122) firsthand experience; by “immersing yourself in its milieu” (“The Naturalist” 116), or environment. He uses the example of the caracara, in the “Naturalist.” He says, “if you wish to understand the caracara, you need to know a great deal about exactly where the caracara lives; and what the caracara’s relationships are with each of the many components of that place, including its elevations, its seasonal light.” (“The Naturalist 116).
This fits in nicely with the point he makes in “: Landscape and Narrative”. He defines two landscapes: external, “the one we see…the land…its plants and animals…its weather, its geology, the record of its climate and evolution.” (“Landscape and Narrative” 5). The other is the internal one, which Lopez describes as “a kind of projection within a part of the exterior landscape.” (“Landscape and Narrative” 7). More or less, I think he’s saying that one’s mindset, feelings, and purpose are determined by nature; the world around us.
Lopez mentions that “those fresh to a task…are the ones most likely to give themselves a deadline…which will challenge themselves to know all there is to know” (“The Naturalist” 122) about a particular thing. But, as he points out, “lack of end points” (“The Naturalist” 122) conflict with “the short-term demands of modern life.” (“The Naturalist” 122). He refers to the fact that he still goes down to the river and always feels like something new will reveal itself. Putting oneself on a deadline never works.
Those opposed to, or believing differently than naturalists, or “tyrants” (“The Naturalist” 122), “aim to silence the naturalists” (“The Naturalist” 122), to avoid having their beliefs called into question or contradicted. Lopez fears those people; some in a position of political power, and with an abundance of confidence are “ready to tell the county commissioners what the river is” (“The Naturalist” 122).
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Picture those same county commissioners as an audience to those in power, aiming to convince them of their agenda. As a listener, of course if the orator is good enough, he can sell sun block in Antarctica. The end result is the same, tell the truth, carry yourself with honesty, and have respect for those who have conducted the tireless research. “To insist on a relationship that isn’t true is a lie, and lying is not a story” (“Landscape and Narrative” 10).
The story of the Navajo intrigued me. Lopez mentions how well they store their information and how important it is to know them. He says when pressed for specific details, “the depth of what they have to offer is scary.” (“The Naturalist” 120). He elaborates on why natives, in particular the Navajo, store information the way they do. It is simple; the land is sacred to them.
The Navajo believe they ascended from the earth, thus they spend their lives giving back, and doing everything to please their creator. For them to maintain good health, and happiness, they perform various ceremonies, rituals, and chants. They also rejuvenate the Navajo’s interior landscape.
I find that this is where the naturalists and Navajo differ. Naturalists aim to preserve, discover, and educate others about the land. With them the choice is an adopted one. They felt compelled to do something, maybe by an influence. Simply put, they weren’t necessarily born into the life. The Navajo, on the other hand, were born into their beliefs, and with a purpose. For Navajo, each person is put on earth for a well-defined reason.
In conclusion, it is important to carry yourself in an honest, ethical, dignified manner. Respect the land and those who spent the time to attentively learn what about it. By trying to convince others of a less than accurate truth you are only damning your own credibility and integrity. Knowledge is not something that is handed out, or found primarily in books or on videos; it’s earned through hard work. Only then should be respected for what you know.