Our Human Journey, The King’s Beast

It is the Earth that Gives Strength


London seemed a miracle when I first saw it,” Ishmael suddenly said, “a wonder of the modern world. But it doesn’t feel like it anymore. I never would have believed men could banish nature the way they have here. In America, in Philadelphia or Boston or New York you are always close to trees and a quarter’s hour walk can always take you to farmland or forest. We shouldn’t be surprised there is so much cruelty in this place. Men are adrift here. They’ve cut their roots to the land. It is the earth that gives strength to a man’s heart, that enriches his spirit. Without that what is a man? An empty shell, kept busy with coffee shops, gossip, and fancy ribbon sellers”


I have always been fascinated by the tales of the Native Americans who traveled to Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries as emissaries or students. Some may have been overwhelmed by the material culture they encountered but I think others, after the initial novelty wore off, would have reacted the way Ishmael does in this scene in The King’s Beast when Duncan discovers him brooding over London from the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Certainly the number of humans cut off from nature has grown exponentially since the 18th century. How has this affected the growth of the human spirit? How has it affected the acute sense of observation, the instinctive curiosity, the careful contemplation and lust for freedom that I believe was bred into the human by immersion in nature over thousands of years? Are there any residents of our contemporary cities who can claim to remain rooted in the natural world? We humans evolved to take feedback from nature, in deep, intuitive ways I think we do not fully understand. How many among us ignore that feedback, substituting that which we get from coffee shops, gossip, and today’s fancy ribbon sellers, meaning social media. Where is that natureless path taking our future generations?

During the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing tens of thousands of Chinese citizens were imprisoned because their government feared they might engage in protests before the international media. As terrible as this was, the media at least had some visibility over that repression. Today there is no transparency whatsoever beyond the empty grandstands. These games are just an extravagant stage production put on by political commissars. It is heartbreaking to see our media obediently playing by Beijing’s script, and even more disappointing to witness how well-known Western companies are making the entire process possible with their massive advertising spending.

What is happening in Beijing is the opposite of the unity, integrity and personal achievement that the Olympics traditionally stand for. We are just massaging the ego of the greatest abuser of human rights on the planet, joining in a spectacle aimed at drowning out human rights critics while convincing the world that Beijing represents the new paradigm of global leadership. The splashy, tightly-guarded games are surrounded by a billion muzzled victims, citizens in a stifling lockdown that is more politically than health driven—not to mention the new prisoners who have joined the million-plus Tibetans and Uyghurs already suffering in prisons and concentration camps in western China. Do the leaders of our government, media and business truly understand what they have dragged us into? They have made us complicit participants in a carefully orchestrated Chinese opera, premised on the servitude not only of its own citizens but also of all of us in the West who have empowered it. Until these Olympics are over we are all Tibetans and Uyghurs.

Eliot Pattison