Last night I heard famous documentarian Ken Burns in an interview say “Nature never gets it wrong,” and it got me to thinking. In a way, this is very true, especially when you consider Who could be the judge of nature’s successes or failures? But “never gets it wrong” is not the same as “never makes mistakes.” As shown by modern scientific research begun by Charles Darwin, species of living things throughout time have constantly adapted by trial and error; essentially, big collective “mistakes.” Turkeys started out as dumb reptiles that kept getting caught by swifter predators, so they evolved feathers to give them more propulsion, and these feathers formed patterns to help them hide better. The species adapted and survived. It did exactly what it needed to do. It “got it right.”
The other half of Burns’ quote is “Human beings and civilizations… quite often get it wrong.” Then what is the difference if both man and nature make mistakes? Perhaps it is that too often we humans do not learn from our mistakes. As a species and a civilization, we have grown and expanded and taken everything we needed and wanted, but we have yet to learn the balance that is the very essence of the natural world. We have forgotten that we do not depend solely on our own conviction, and that we are part of a larger community of life. There is much to learn from a young fern sprouting in the understory of an expansive forest.