Learn From Mother?

Riding between Reading and Windsor yesterday, I saw two Wood Pigeons sharing a verge with a couple of rabbits. I saw a Magpie very obviously hunting for eggs or young birds by a country hedge. The other day I saw a polecat or similar with a baby rabbit in its mouth. Today the Swallows were swooping overhead and flying magnificently – marvellous to witness, unless you’re one of the innumerable insects they’re snatching out of the sky. The other day Charli saw a Sparrowhawk carry off a young Starling. The Starlings in my garden very obviously work together as a group – finding comparative safety in numbers but also, it seems, working co-operatively in scouting for food. A while back I saw several Red Kites sharing a fresh fox carcass. This afternoon I saw a Crow chasing off a Red Kite and the Red Kite responding with a quick twist and a flash of two outstretched talons.

Back on the roads, today and on any number of other rides, the huge majority of people I interacted with while cycling were absolutely fine. That’s despite the blunt reality being that by-and-large, as a cyclist, you’ll often cause drivers to have to slow down – you’re an obstacle, however briefly.

What I was wondering was what’s the natural instinct – the base instinct of the human animal? We’re all too aware of ‘road rage’, whether directed at cyclists by drivers or driver versus driver. But as all those recent wildlife observations demonstration, if you look at ‘Mother Nature’ there’s little comfort to be found: nature is just dispassionate and as brutal as the basic requirements of life – food and procreation – requires; no more, no less.

So, is human anger or at best impatience perhaps our natural state? After all, an impediment to progress, however small, is just that. There’s little or no gain to be had, in the short term at least, from tolerating impediments. Once upon a time that would have amounted to tolerating impediments to survival. Presumably, we wouldn’t need laws to enforce tolerance if tolerance had been our natural state.

If we are, as it were, naturally predisposed to being angry towards impediments, it’s no excuse for intolerance or impatience or rage or dangerous driving or anything similar. All it might mean is that we should perhaps be grateful that on the whole, most people, most of the time, are able to rise above what’s ‘natural’. We should probably also be wary of anyone invoking ‘natural’ as if it’s inherently A Good Thing. We should probably be lauding triumphs over nature.