Do you remember when you were a kid, and you’d be given books on nature that showed all the nice animals, and all of them doing the nicest things they do – leopards dozing in trees, wild piggies wallowing about playfully, giraffes galloping, elephants marching in stately columns along with their little ones, all safe and protected within the herd? Remember those animal documentaries? The ones with Marlin Perkins, who would “send Stan in for a closer look”, and you weren’t even suspicious how it was that a travelling circus of a film crew, which probably included a commissary van and a Winnebago, managed to go out every week and catch mile after mile of film of elusive animals that tend to steer well clear of the humans they can hear and smell from five miles away? Stan would jump on a South American anteater or some such shit – it was all good fun!
How old were you when you found out all of that was bullshit, and how did it feel? I have a sneaking suspicion that you never really did find out, that you’re still oblivious, and I can’t have it. If that’s you, buckle up, nature-lover, for I mean to speak the truth.
So here’s what nature is all about: filth, cruelty, savage predation, and everything dying horribly, either starved or being torn to pieces. That’s what it is. That’s all it is. You think your ancestors were actually abandoning some Garden of Eden when they settled down and started farming? I’m guessing you were never a rootless nomad following herds of stinking ruminants around, hoping no lion got the jump on you, and that somebody would help you find proper nutrition when your teeth wore away from all the dirt mixed in with your meals, at, like, age 25. Maybe that guy over there would pre-chew the food for you first, you never knew, it could happen.
The state of nature is bullshit. And it’s ugly.
That leopard lazing in the tree? He likes to dispatch hoofed prey items by ripping their throats out with his big teeth, or crunching right through their skulls. This isn’t nature:
It took me two seconds to find that picture, that’s how dirt common photos like that are. Ever watch one of those real nature documentaries that David Attenborough puts out? You know, the ones that take eight years to produce, because he doesn’t cart the animals out with him in cages and tether them to trees for filming? Well, he pulls no punches, and man, if you watch any of them, you’d best be steeling yourself for things you’ll wish you never saw or even heard about.
He did this series called Blue Planet, about sea life, and I remember being drawn in by an episode in which a big female whale, a finback, I think, went to this submarine desert in the South Pacific where almost nothing lives, and there’s no food. Why? Because she was about to give birth, and it was safe there. No food = no predators. The catch was, she had to store up as much fat as possible before she went, and was in danger of starving by the time junior was ready to pop, but that’s the deal for mother finbacks. So she has her calf, and the two begin a long trip North to waters where they can feed – she’s damn near dead from hunger, at this point, and must get some nutrition if she’s to provide milk for her baby.
There they were, swimming along slowly, Mommy Whale growing weaker, but keeping her calf close and between her fins as much as possible, so the vulnerable little thing would be safe, when a pod of killer whales happens by. Just passing through. Brainwashed by popular entertainment, you’re thinking “hey, look, it’s Shamu!”, and “Hey, Free Willie!”. Well these vicious bastards aren’t Shamu. They’re a goddam aquatic motorcycle gang, they’re ten-ton Hell’s Angels with hundreds of sharp teeth, and they decide to kill this precious calf, this creature that was so hard to birth, the product of so much arduous maternal labour and the subject of such deep maternal concern. She tries to fend them off, she does her best. She’s too weak, though, and they have teeth, and she doesn’t, she’s a filter feeder, you see, and baleen might frighten krill but it sure as shit doesn’t scare these oceangoing brainiac Tyrannosaurs. They surround her, push her away, and then they take her calf and push him underwater, keeping him from getting back to the surface to breath. It takes a while, because he’s a whale, right, he can hold his breath, but hey, they’ve got time, and they drown the little calf.
You know what these black and white motherf&*%#ers do then? They just watch the calf go belly up and sink. They don’t even want to eat it. They were just having fun. The mother finback, now bereft, and I swear to God almost perceptibly heartbroken, isn’t really amusing anymore, so they swim away, happy as clams. You can hear them nattering cheerily in sonar talk. Just another day of hijinks and looking for somebody to mess with.
Oh, and Mr. Attenborough, I hope you have nightmares about horrible death suffered between the jaws of implacable real-world monsters every frigging night, just like I do ‘cuz of you.
Nature is ugly in lots of other ways, too, it’s positively disgusting. It’s not just the blood, and gore, and vultures sticking their heads up the rectums of dead wildebeest, either. It’s excrement. Tons and piles and streams of excrement.
Ever hear of a “dung display”? Probably not, since even those who know what it is aren’t apt to bring it up in polite conversation. I caught a video of one by random chance one afternoon, watching the tube. I could scarcely believe it. When the narrator described the behaviour, I couldn’t believe it. When they showed it actually happening, right there on camera, long, and voluminous, and even worse than they’d described it, I still couldn’t believe it, not right away. I was sitting there on the couch with an old buddy, no wilting wallflower, who was there because we used to pump iron together three times a week, and he started shrieking like a little girl. So did I. If George Lucas had portrayed any of his fictional creatures doing anything similar, it would have both blown his special effects budget and driven horrified, wailing moviegoers out of their seats and into the streets, never to risk going to see anything called Star Wars ever again.
It’s something hippos do. Sometimes as a dominance display, but sometimes just for kicks, apparently. See, they eat a lot of roughage every day. They probably eat as much as a brontosaurus did, back in the day. Tons. Literally. And, well, all that grass and assorted greenery doesn’t just stay inside, right? It has to go somewhere. And it does! At about 50 miles per hour, for about a minute at a time! And the hippos, making virtue of necessity, have a ball with it, flapping their tails back and forth in the shit stream like it’s an unlucky windshield wiper, and this sprays the poo everywhere! All over anything within about a six yard splatter radius! Whheeeee!!!
That, especially, is nature.
I knew you wouldn’t believe me, so I attached video evidence, as well as a very charming mini-documentary which is also about other aspects of hippo life, and well worth a look. It’s the one at the bottom. As to the other videos, I take no responsibility for whatever becomes of your emotional equilibrium and future peace of mind, should you choose to view them. That’s on you. Just make no mistake: once seen, it cannot be unseen. This bell doesn’t un-ring. Indeed, I now post a cautionary sign, photographed for real at a zoo, that supplies a warning you might do well to heed: