The Importance of Bear
Even if I can’t see them, it is important that this landscape contain bear. Not because bear are a top-level predator necessary for a healthily functioning Rocky Mountain ecosystem; the definition of healthy function is entirely arbitrary, and for most people it’s irrelevant whether the Rocky Mountain ecosystem even exists, much less functions. Neither is it because bear, as individuals or a species, have intrinsic value; that principle is true, to me, but again arbitrary, and also easily violated. It’s because the bear is : because it’s wild, not human, a symbol and reality of otherness. Just as religion affirms, even to an unbeliever, the possibility of a belief system outside the dominant, so does a bear say that humanity is not everywhere, all-encroaching, all-conquering, inescapable. As it is for a person, so it is for a species: there is no worse fate than to be trapped inside yourself.
Note: Religion in the context of America at the turn of the 21st century, where the dominant belief system is disembodied, at the time of these thoughts, in a PA system request that airplane windows be closed so passengers may better see tiny retractable TV screens that unfold above every third row, running an NBC variety loop at 8:30 in the morning.
Image: Somewhere over the foothills of the Rockies, flying west out of Denver, from this set .