Post # 802  TERRA FIRMA: Boundaries

The assertion of exclusive ownership of land or “territory,” ownership, individually or tribally, undoubtedly, was one of Mankind’s earliest conceits. It is our assumption that pragmatic considerations of accessibility, safety, availability of natural resources, such as food and water, were among the criteria for desirable domiciliary selection. It would seem likely, that the choicest sites, generally, were allocated, to the more powerful or influential members of the resident tribal society. It is our further presumption that in stationary society, (as compared with nomadic ones), such respective designations of home sites were recognized by members of that society, and were coterminous with its existence and/or the lives of its occupants and their progeny. Our present thematic consideration relates to the metaphysical context of societal recognition of individual assertions of title to real estate ownership.

Initially, it may be useful, to refer, to an earlier writing, concerning the sad story, of our two pear trees. To summarize, we received, as a present, in the late fall season, two “bare root,” (no soil) pear trees. Planting season was two seasons away, but we “miraculously,” were able to keep the precarious, bare branches alive by keeping them moist and very cold (by an open window). We, optimistically, planted them in the spring and, were delighted that they “took,” and thereafter, survived the winter. However, despite their planting in close proximity for pollination purposes, they did not flower for a full eight years. The ninth year they did present white flowers, but only produced one pear (which, for fun, was ceremonially, shared and eaten.) The next (11th) year they flowered and, happily, bore a small amount of fruit. In Spring, of the twelfth, year, the white flowers being profuse, we arrived at our country house, having purchased a long fruit harvester implement, expecting, at long last, a full, bumper crop of pears, only to find (with the impact of a classic Greek tragedy), that beavers, from the nearby pond, had  chewed down and completely, destroyed both trees.

As we recall, following some pitiful and frustrated, expostulations, we soon were successful in the attainment of a rational evaluation of the experience. The beavers, of course, were properly, doing, that which beavers normally, do, viz., cut down trees, for food and hut building. “Our” trees, indeed, our basic concept of owned property, is, obviously, beyond any cognition or relevance to them. In fact, we soon arrived at the metaphysical conclusion that, from the viewpoint of the natural world, it was not “owned,” by anyone. The ceremonial real estate “closing,” at which papers, were signed and notarized, and funds transferred, was a dance, to which the natural world was not a party. We then came to discern, that, other than to knowledgeable human beings, the utter irrelevance of the established, legal process (of “closing”) of real estate conveyance. Empirically, real estate, with all of its trees, rocks and shrubbery, like all the planet, eternally was, and remains, notwithstanding, the proper domicile and operating franchise of the natural world and its non-human inhabitants and no officially executed documents can make it otherwise.

With the exception of compliant humankind, all of our established and cognizable boundaries, are illusory or perhaps, delusional. Birds, sea life and animals, migrate, heedlessly, as needed, throughout the planet, without fear of trespass or awareness of man’s (time-changing) borders, expressed, assertively, by  the latter, in assertive lines on periodically changing, political or proprietary, maps.

Nevertheless, from what is discernable from Paleolithic times to the present, human land ownership, has been the signature of wealth, power, political and societal legitimacy. In the early days of our constitutional republic, despite its mantra of equality, only (white) men who owned land were afforded the voting franchise. American society, fortunately, has significantly, evolved, and, among other, salient advances, the right to vote is deemed personal, and not dependent upon the ownership of property.

With our embarrassed, and profuse apologies to the Earth’s fauna and flora, Man’s lust for the (recognized illusion) of land ownership as a criterion of prestige and power, has been a recurrent human pathology, and his entire history appears to be smitten with the horrific epidemic of land wars.

The recent barbarous and unjustified land war, launched by Putin’s, Russia on peaceful Ukraine is a striking example of this chronic human pathology; for which we, on behalf of the entire family of Homo sapiens, profusely, and with great shame, apologize to Man’s fellow inhabitants of the planet, including all beavers.


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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