One of the advantages of growing up with the "rationed film and television" (borrowed that one from Uma) regimen of the 1980s was that the aired programs were, in so many ways, the cream of the crop. There could only be room for ONE science show, so we had Carl Sagan's "Cosmos". If there was time only for ONE nature show, it had to be a David Attenborough documentary and so on. (The shows did not demand any more attention than any of the million shows on TV today, but we gave them undivided attenion anyway.)
But that's not what this post is about. This post is about a documentary that I caught on PBS over the weekend. For one full hour, I was wide-eyed and kept saying "I can't believe this" every 2 minutes or so.
Along with evolution and adaptation, symbiosis is, to me, one of the most fascinating aspects of nature and it is a fascinating subject for three reasons.
One, symbiosis makes all the links in the chain equally important. That bird riding the water-buffalo is not just there for the ride (though it must be a lot of fun wading through all that water.)
Two, it gives meaning to each of those links, especially the little ones. For example, what does the life of a little wasp, with its puny life-span of a few hours, mean? To an African Sycamore Fig tree, it means everything. The Sycamore Fig tree itself means everything to ants, spiders, beetles, bees, butterflies (who, get this, get DRUNK on fermented juice from the fallen fig), fruit-bats, birds, reptiles, monkeys, fishes, crocodiles and finally, the Masai tribesmen.
What a beautifully interconnected system of giving and taking(how those 2 terms become meaningless in the context of Life - capital L - and symbiosis.) How elegantly nature designs systems to facilitate this complex business of propagation of life.
Thirdly, any random example of symbiosis serves as a warning cry. The chains are woven so intricately, how dare we disturb even the smallest link.
I don't know if you can catch this marvellous show (titled "The Queen of Trees") outside the US, but if you can get the DVD of the show, watch it. I believe it is important for a film about nature to push cinematic boundaries too. This film does that in an awe-inspiring manner.
As if all this inspiration and edjucashun wasn't enough, PBS aired "The Barefoot Contessa" later that night. Ava Gardner, hummana hummana.