Some people don’t like nature documentaries. While they are my favourite sort of shows to watch, I understand the dislike. Nature docos are bereft of people and people are the most interesting things in the universe. More interesting than rocks or polar bears or even monkeys. Nature documentaries can be like a holiday snap of an empty beach.
In winter in the Arctic circle, seals tuck their pups in (slightly) warmer pockets under the snow while they go fish. The pups do not yet have enough body fat to survive the frigid waters. Winter is bingeing time for polar bears. While the seal parents are gone, they sniff out the seal nests, jump on the snow above like a cat pounces on a mouse and drags the helpless pup out to feed on it. Mumma seal will come home to some of her pup strewn across the ice.
It’s almost a cliché to note the cruelty of nature that this sort of cinematography reveals. The notion is that man sleeps easy in the savage garden, content that the circle of life is complete.
However, when I watch these scenes I feel dissatisfied. I feel the weight of the meaninglessness of the cruelty. It’s Ecclesiastes illustrated. Any meaning is given by the narrator and you, the viewer, are required to actively impose it for a false sense of completeness.