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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

We Are Not Bacteria

We just act like it sometimes.

Here and now our very planet is struggling to survive, the UN says species are dying at a rate 1,000 times faster than they should be, and predictions are that in a hundred years water will be about three feet higher, burying a lot of land and a lot of people. So what is this nation doing? We’re busy starting wars that are all about money and power. Like I said, bacteria. Only bacteria mutate as necessary to survive. We’re not even doing that.

It’s not crazy to even wonder if human beings will survive. One scientist just put the odds at 50-50. Maybe it’s because the world is so very depressing just now that I’m turning more toward the other things, all the things we don’t know about (which is almost everything from what I perceive). The things we think we know? It’s nothing, nothing at all. Though we worship ourselves and even our own ignorance. For whatever reasons. (I’ve never been able to figure that one out, personally.)

The people who are certain they know everything that matters? They’re the most arrogant and blind of all. The people who say—and believe—they’re “for life”? They’re the most deadly and destructive of all. This planet and most the people on it look crazier and crazier to me every single day. It’s scary.

Several incidents recently reminded me of the other side of this quantum equation—those things absolutely beyond us and our understanding. Why don’t we all live in that recognition of reality all the time? Cognizant of mystery? That would be a sane thing to do.

What am I talking about here exactly? Well, I’m sure that I can’t really say exactly. But OK, for instance... a couple days ago, I was talking to a young friend who has three siblings that I’ve never met, though she’s mentioned them in generalities. I suddenly felt one of her brothers very strongly, just felt his insides and knew he was in trouble. I’d had enough past experiences to decide not to risk it being my imagination, and I told her about it. Then her mother called her for the first time in a couple years and the daughter shared what I’d said with her. Turned out that they’d been recently very concerned about the brother. When this friend told me what was going on there, I spontaneously said, yeah, he just absorbs everything around him like a sponge. Then I went, wait, how do I know that? And I didn’t know how, but it was something she confirmed.

Just today I got the radiology report from my recent MRIs confirming what my doctor had already told me: I have one new, rather large, inflamed brain lesion in my left parietal (MS). OK, that might sound weird enough in itself . . . but what’s truly strange here (I think anyway) is that I recently wrote this silly little allegorical story about something in my life (wrote it before my MRIs) and in it, I had my left parietal talking to me! (In case you don’t know, there are actually lots of different areas of the brain I might have referenced.) I remember after typing that even thinking WTF? Why did I do that?

Another story, both old and new… I went for a massage from a healer type within the past week and somehow ended up trusting her enough to tell a story I rarely tell. How when I was 18, two friends and I hitch-hiked across the country and ended up being let off one night on the outskirts of Boulder. How we woke in the morning, everything unknown and magical, no idea where we really were. How we’d read the books of Carlos Castenada, who related his experiences with a sorcerer in Mexico named Don Juan. How that morning we started talking about maybe heading toward Mexico, to go on a quest to find this sorcerer. (Yes, seriously; if you lived in those times, you’d understand.) How Carlos Castendada had written about them frequently turning into birds together. How within five minutes, on the outskirts of Boulder, sitting on our sleeping bags, we saw two huge black and white raptor birds overhead. How one of them swooped down and landed on my army surplus backpack a couple feet away from me. How we did not bring any drugs with us (as my daughter suspected upon first hearing this story).

That bird stayed there for at least ten minutes while we asked each other what we should be doing, offered it some granola (the only food we’d brought with us; if you lived in those times, you’d understand), an action which turned out to insult the bird. How one of my friends shot a whole roll of film of that bird with her cheap instamatic. How after that time passed, the other, matching bird started circling around above the treetops and then our bird took off finally, to join it. How my friend stuck the film way at the bottom of her army surplus backpack and all day, as we kept hitching, we kept wondering if anything would show up on film. How that night, stopping at a hostel or something, we all spent time searching everything we all had, over and over. But the film was gone.

So the masseuse, after hearing the story, said something. She said it how I rarely say anything (unless it’s political anyway): She said it with complete and utter confidence, smiling. What she said was: “Vultures. Those were vultures! That’s the only kind of bird like that that gets so close to people. And black and white? Look up American vultures.”

At least half convinced that she was right, I spent half an hour online looking at various species of vultures and condors. Then a full hour. Not a single one of them looked anything at all like our birds outside Boulder.

Then it hit me: I don’t trust myself enough. And I trust others who sound sure of themselves too much. That masseuse was starting from a premise that such things simply do not happen, that there had to be an explanation that fit into the world of thought she knew. So she found one. And she stopped looking for or considering anything else.

This is the point at which we all begin to die, I think. If we don’t like uncertainties or mysteries, we shrivel up. We stop seeing, listening, learning, growing. Stop living.

And if anyone out there feels like doing some research on this event, try to track down these two old friends I’ve had no contact with in decades, and ask them about it. (And tell them where to contact me, please.) I’d actually love to hear how they remember the incident, as I’m sure we don’t all recall things exactly the same. Anyway, last I heard, Ron Blair was in Portland, Oregon, married with kids. But he grew up on Wheeler Road in the far northeast of Madison, WI. His father was a postal worker, I recall, and a bit of a bastard. (In case you can look in the yellow pages under “bastards”?) The other friend was also from Madison: Rita Houghton, who later took off to the Florida Keys and got pregnant, had a baby girl, I think it was. (Then she came back to Madison.) She had a brother with Down’s Syndrome, and her mother was a cocktail waitress. Not much to go on, is it? Oh well, that’s life.

There was one more thing like these that happened recently but can’t recall it just now. Oh, and as for that brother in trouble? He’s getting a Big Brother and more attention now. And that brain lesion? I gave it a name.

We’re actually not bacteria. We can find a way to help this planet—and all its beautiful species—survive. If not through humankind, then possibly through the other things. Whatever they may be.

Think and Be Dangerous

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