Rethinking Nature, Watching TierZoo

Rethinking Nature, Watching TierZoo December 9, 2019

TierZoo is a Youtube channel about putting nature (mainly animals) into tiers. F at the bottom to S at the top. It’s a great gimmick. What’s the best class (species) to play in this MMO that is known as ‘Outside’?

My partner and I binged all of TierZoo’s videos in a few days. They’re not too long, so it’s not difficult. And they’re full of humor, mainly the sort that will appeal to gamers or those familiar with ‘gaming culture’. (Lots of his videos have the EYEWITNESS theme playing in the background and at the end, which makes the nostalgia bonus pretty high too.)

I’m not here to sell you on a Youtube channel. (You should totally watch it though.) Instead, I’ve realized something interesting has happened since watching TierZoo videos.

My perception of the natural world started to shift.

Reframing

It’s not immediately obvious how a Youtube channel about gamifying and ranking (mainly) animals translates to greater peace with the natural world, but I think that’s because TierZoo isn’t trying to do that. TierZoo is just making fun videos on topics they enjoy. They just happened to worm into my head in a weird way.

I realized pretty shortly after binging the videos that I was relating to nature and animals a bit differently than I had. Normally, there was an undercurrent of moralizing. Even in fancy, well-made and well-researched nature documentaries, there tends to be some moralizing going on. We feel sad when a prey animal gets killed. Often there are ‘main characters’, of sorts, in nature documentaries. Some will even give them names. To be clear, I don’t think these sorts of documentaries are bad. They’re what TierZoo is obviously drawing inspiration (and footage) from!

The way that the information is presented in TierZoo’s video is different, though. There is definitely a good/bad dynamic; there has to be for the animals to be ranked. But ‘good’ here means well-adapted, stats and skills that help the animal survive. Bad usually means they have to use really janky mechanics. Obviously TierZoo’s opinions aren’t going to be objective, but the *approach* to adaptation, evolution, and survival is super interesting.

The playful nature of the videos adds its own flavor too.

Everything, Absolutely Everything

I think the videos have helped me grasp amorality in a way I never did before. In a way that exists for most of the natural world. This isn’t to say I’m going to go run off and claim that we humans need to abandon our morality and ethics and have a free for all. (I think those are pretty important skills we invested into on the skill tree.) It does mean I’m more understanding of the flow of nature, of the facts of it. An animal that lays its eggs in another living creature? Bacteria that does terrifying things to your body before killing you? It be like that sometimes.

For all that we Pagans talk about everything being sacred, we tend to only sanctify the pretty parts of nature that appeal to us. If everything is sacred, absolutely everything, then aren’t the things we find gross sacred too?

Aren’t the terrible things just a sacred?

Maybe we don’t mean ‘everything is sacred’. Maybe we mean ‘everything not inimical to human life is sacred’. Maybe we do mean ‘everything we find pleasing is sacred’.

I do think that, being human worshipers, being humans in our fleshy human bodies, it is probably best for us to go with ‘everything not inimical to human life’. There are absolutely deities of death and destruction that receive praise and worship, that I would say are deserving of worship. But I don’t know many people at all who would want to worship, say, MRSA in the same way. I can respect and admire all manner of life on this beautiful, weird planet and also not want to experience most of it.

Or Not

Personally, I won’t be adding in worship of deadly bacterium to my religious practices. I can give more generic worship to the grandness of life. I don’t work with Red Caps (a type of malevolent fairy) either, even if I work with fairies as a general type of spirit. As I noted, my boundary is ‘not inimical to human life’. Because I like being alive.

I’m not particularly interested in worshiping any entity or idea that causes suffering. Even if I can realize that, like with the many forms of life that can horrifically impact us humans, there isn’t a hostility or evil to those acts.

I’m not going to stop washing my hands, physically or spiritually.

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