• Simone Penn

Confessions of a Failed Naturalist


I started the Mothers’ Nature blog on a random weekday because I wanted to teach people how to use their dishwashers in the most eco-conscious, sustaible, water-smart, natural, and chemical-free way.


Oh the irony.


I suspect it is that profile of my audience who will be most disappointed by today’s piece.


But in my quest for authenticity I feel compelled to share thoughts that are finally well organized and articulated in my mind.


A friend shared similar sentiments with me recently which gave me the final push I needed to publish mine here...


But in any event, I can finally own the fact that all of my attempts at (including but not limited to): saving the planet, eating only organic, weekday veganism, living zero-tox, living off the grid, natural medicine, and so many countless other phases to this effect; as a bid to gain a sense of control over my fragile and limited life.


So many of these things work magnificently for me and I have absolutely zero intention of leaving them behind, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t gained a greater clarity into why I first engaged in these pursuits in the first place.


Two things can be true at once.


By way of confession, since lockdown has started, I’ve entered into a deep and meaningful relationship with my tumbler-dryer, I’ve used more chemicals to wash my clothes and dishes than I’ve previously owned in my lifetime, and I nuke almost every meal in the microwave for good measure.


One “evil” versus another. Chemicals verse Corona.


With some perspective, however, I can now firmly say that, to me, it all boils down to a lack of faith. A therapist once pointed this out to me years ago and I thought she was smoking something. (I actually think she was smoking something but that’s beside the point).


I wanted to do all of these things so I could sleep soundly knowing I was doing everything “right”. Right by my health, right by my planet, right by people around me and so forth. This, I felt, entitled me to another certain “right”,

Or set of rights...


The right to health, a long life, “smooth sailing” and so on. If I simply conducted myself within these strict boundaries then all of the terrible things I fear won’t be able to affect me. I won’t get cancer. I won’t die young. My children will be safe. My husband will be healhty. Etc. I will have control over my own mortality and fragility.


And then, Corona.


How very naive I was. How very naive we all are.


One of my absolute Gurus in life, (one who doesn’t even know I exist), Esther Baila Schwartz, gave a shiur last week that blew my mind. As per usual. She said that all corona has done is to make us profoundly aware of the lack of control any of us have over our lives. An absolute lack of control that was ever and ultimately present before, we just weren’t confronted with it as much (or at all?). We had a better illusion of control but we were never in control. We still aren’t now. It’s just more conspicuous.


I love this. It’s scary but it’s real. And that’s kind of my oxygen. Harsh but fair. Facts over fluff.


As a sidebar, to explore later, I would only exclude, in some part, my tiny house life as an exception to this revelation.


And only in some part.


I fully acknowledge living small gives me a sense of control over my surroundings but I’m happy with that and it works for me and our family. It’s an obsession that serves us and doesn’t supersede more important values such as Torah or Family. If anything it enhances these.


I don’t want to pin this entire revelation on corona either because, the truth is, I’ve had these suspicions for a while now.


I started following the work of Ben Shapiro a year or two ago and he is someone I can now firmly say that I trust. He employs formal logic and hard fact to substantiate his claims and he shares the same conservative political and orthodox religious beliefs as I do.


His sentiments on climate change are far more palatable. Ben certainly acknowledges humanity has had a prolific effect on the planet but in no way subscribes to the alarmist agenda that we are all on an Armageddon-style trajectory. One idea he shares is that if sea levels rise people will simply move further in land. Humanity will adjust.


I like this idea. Adjustment is healthy and necessary for survival.


Another thought that permeates my mind on a more than occasional basis is the immense relief this lockdown must have given to the environment. All of the factors contributing to the destruction of natural resources have been all but forbidden. Some decent examples of these include: enormous office complexes using excessive amounts of electricity and water; air travel; and “unnecessary” production and industry. Those of us in the “eco-conscious community”’have been frantically trying to convince everyone to change and then Gd changes everything (to the eco-agenda tune) in one fell swoop.


I must mention here, too, that I firmly believe the economy should be reopened immediately in South Africa as we will lose far more as a result of depression - both economic and emotional, than we will by way of corona but that’s a separate point which can be true in conjunction with the above.


Either way I think we got hysterical. I think we get hysterical. I certainly am hysterical most of the time.


I think worrying about such uncontrollable forces, such as climate change, allows us to divert from what we actually can control because it scares us (such as marriage, raising children, earning a living etc); and helps ease the pain of what we can’t control (like when we’re going to die) because that scares us too.


Furthermore I’ve come to accept that these concerns (read: obsessions, in my case) display a blatant lack of faith in Our Creator.


HBH promised He would never destroy the world after the flood so who am I to think I can have some sort of influence on that one way or the other?


Am I saying you should just can all of your sustainability efforts right now? Of course not.


I’ve always said, and I still believe, that a Jew has an obligation to behave in an exemplary way, and as a Jew I take that responsibility very seriously. We all need to behave in an exemplary way, for that matter!


I cannot, in good conscience, be wasteful, in any arena. I’m not allowed to - Ba’al Tashchit and all that.. But I cannot also assume that I hold the power to change the world.


I do not.


The only power I hold is over myself and to be the best version of myself possible. Sometimes that means being compulsive about plastic; but always it means knowing HaShem is in charge and whatever He wills will, not only be, but will be for the ultimate good.



©2019 by Mothers’ Nature.