In 1979, the book Natural: mente was published in Portuguese (the English edition was published under the title Natural: Mind in 2013). The title is untranslatable. The Portuguese word naturalmente is an adverb that means “naturally” or “certainly.” When Vilém Flusser cuts the word in half with a colon, he changes the meaning of the word into its opposite. The certainty or naturalness connoted by naturalmente turns into uncertainty and doubt. “Natural: mente” means: “What is natural lies.” In other words: “Nature lies.” Or more specifically: “The very idea of nature is a lie.”
Flusser assumes that the ontological differentiation between nature and culture can no longer be upheld. The nature that we see is a product of culture. When we say natural mente, the natural lies. It lies because it presents subjective constructions as objective. The natural lies because it changes completely without us even noticing it. The bird is no longer the model for the airplane; the plane becomes the model for the bird. We see the hawk as a glider and the swallow as a fighter aircraft. The messages of myths belittle themselves. We are no longer ecstatic hermits like lonely Icarus, but rather bureaucrats squashed into uncomfortable jet-propelled sardine cans. Jet aircraft are beyond Leonardo da Vinci’s dreams but do not get anywhere near the liberating dimension of the myth of flying. Science looks for wonders, but the teachings of science turn things that should be astonishing into something “natural.” The Brazilian poet Mário Quintana used to say that, when he saw a butterfly, the average person would say: “Look! A butterfly!” The scientist, however, would reply: “Oh, yes, one of the order of Lepidoptera [lepidóptero; a play on words in Portuguese: lépido, swift; helicóptero, helicopter].”Well, whoever says “Lepidoptera” cannot marvel at the colors and the erratic movements of a butterfly that our eyes can barely follow.
Original article by Gustavo Bernardo Krause