Human Nature

Lukas Bärfuss and guests

The relationship between human beings and nature can best be described as rather neurotic and certainly unbalanced, shifting from one extreme to the other. At one point Mother Gaia keeps everything in equilibrium. Then again, her laws are nothing but a school of cruelty – eat or be eaten. And there are illusions everywhere: rural regions that we regard as natural are really biological deserts. While in urban regions like the Ruhr, lilies bloom, peregrine falcons go hunting and yellow-bellied toads croak in between industrial chimneys and areas of wasteland.

Our view of nature is conditioned by desires and fears and those projections say more about us as people than they do about the object of our attention. However, in the 21st century and in the face of looming climate catastrophe, we need to stop and think. Our society has to find a new relationship with nature.

Literature already holds a vast an ancient repository of experience. From Ovid’s Metamorphoses, through Melville’s Moby Dick up to Wolfgang Hilbig’s The Tidings of the Trees: it repeatedly reflects human shock and delight at the sight of nature in different ways. We will explore gardens, fields and deserts in readings by Corinna Harfouch, Fritzi Haberlandt and Anja Herden while in conversations with his guests Mi-Yong Becker, Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and Thomas Macho the writer Lukas Bärfuss will consider these phantasms and search for a new answer to the old question: What is human nature?