I’m an avid nature observer and it occurred to me the other day that I have never seen an obese squirrel, bird or other wild animal in my yard. Perhaps I am mistaken, but it seems that when one lives a wild life full of the constant urgency to locate food and shelter, the possibility of reflecting a state of sustained over indulgence in your appearance doesn’t seem possible.
It leads back to colorings of perception. When you see someone who is clearly obese, in olden times there were those that envied them – they clearly had the means to over indulge. Nowadays it seems more likely that the reaction would be judgmental – you’re lazy, you don’t exercise and take care of yourself etc.
I often think that wild life are never plagued by the stress of leisure. Each day they know they have to eat and have a place to sleep. They are clear goals with no alternate options for slacking off. As for us, for the most part our food and shelter needs are in place, so what then? Leisure time can be filled in a variety of ways, but there are still countless times in our lives when we while away precious time with no sense of purpose at all. At times when I watch the squirrels it is I who envies them.
Yet when you consider it, the homeless face the arduous task of finding food and shelter every day. They aren’t things they have the opportunity to take for granted. Yet although their goals of the day are of far greater urgency than mine, I never envy them.
When observing things, both living and constructed etc. we invariably never resist the temptation to give it a name. Typically the name has some relation to the properties of the object. This is very much the case in formal scientific names for plants, animals and microscopic organisms etc. Not only does it give you a sense of what it is, but also what family it belongs to.
It isn’t only limited to living things. Even with constructed items a sense of family comes into play. A bowie knife, a pairing knife and a carving knife are all knives. A 3D printer, an ink jet printer and a laser jet printer are all printers. Whether living or not, we subconsciously group things according to their commonality.
Perhaps there is a comfort in making something less alien by linking it to something we are already familiar with. Nothing ever seems to be left out by itself. Even if the relation to something else is distant, it is nonetheless linked.
When naming people we are always linked by our family name. Sometimes that automatically comes with awe and respect, sometimes not so much. Those with no known family are typically given new names when adopted by a family thereby also being “linked”.
We are practically obsessed with commonality in our naming conventions. Yet so often when interacting with one another or with the environment around us that same inclination towards seeking commonality is all too often vigorously suppressed.
I dug an old microscope my father had out of the closet and set it up. I went and collected some water from a local pond and slid it under the scope to have a look. At first it was fascinating lifting the veil back on a world few of us ever explore. Strange creatures with multiple feet and antennae appeared like manifestations from sci-fi novels.
The longer I gawked at the strange and unusual world beneath the scope a disturbing revelation set in. The frequent spasms I was witnessing were the organisms gasping for breath. I was in effect watching them writhe in agony, fighting for every last breath before being consumed by death. A death that I had caused by meddling in a world to which I was an alien. A world that I didn’t take the time to investigate and understand before disturbing its cocoon to satisfy my own selfish curiosity and insatiable appetite for something new to watch.
And yet even with this realization, I was still able to toss the water down the drain when I was bored and ready to do something else and simply walk away.
A great deal of literature when addressing the existence of a muse more often than not portrays it as a beautiful, nymph-like spirit that fills your soul with beauty which in turn pours out of your creative spouts in the form of writing, music etc. Personally, I think it is a lie.
To be sure beautiful sights and positive emotions can stir one into a state of giddiness – but I think it is rarely more than that. Delights full of sugar are wonderful when you’re biting into them, but once they are gone they are gone. You can’t seriously recollect the sensation that a gum drop you fancied five years ago produced.
What lingers, what truly tears ones soul to shreds to the point that you have to reach into your very limits to pull yourself out of the abyss – that is where truth in its purest form lies. It’s often said but largely ignored that some of the most phenomenal works of literature, music and art were done by people who were consumed by madness within themselves, or keenly aware of it in their surroundings.
Writing is used primarily to document thought – either for individual posterity or to be shared with another or many. It used to be an act bordering on the sacred. Not only did you need to be one of the privileged few that could actually produce recordable script, you had to have the means to do it. Paper had to be handmade. Whether it be papyrus or vellum etc. It was a delicate and time consuming process. Not to mention the writing utensil itself. Quills had to be cut, ink made. In short, if you had something to record, you better be sure it was important.
If you were careless and made an error it was nearly impossible to correct without evidence of your folly being left behind. Whether that be a spilled ink stain, or an area where the vellum had to be scraped clean. Even in modern time, if you messed up with an ink pen or typewriter you had to smear white out on it. There was always a trace of your inattention to perfection.
Nowadays you can record thought with a few key strokes while lying in bed half awake in the middle of the night. If you make a mistake you hit a single backspace key which takes less than half a second. Never in the history of the world have we had greater ease with which to express our thoughts and yet the vast majority of what is produced is thoughtless.
The hallmarks of a typical bunker are that 1) you dig it yourself 2) it alters your worldview – in essence it buries it, literally.
So while I was at the park the other day noticing all the kids and adults alike with heads buried in their tablets and phones, it occurred to me that these are the modern day bunkers.
Purchased by choice, it allows one to dive into one’s own self constructed world. After all you pick your apps, your friends, your wallpaper – everything. It is a perfectly insular world in which if someone says something critical either about you personally or about an issue upon which you have an opinion – you can ban them from your sight – never to see or hear a word of dissent again.
You don’t see anything you don’t wish to see. To actually encounter “the enemy” you would have to lift your eyes above the bunker and seek them out. If, presumably, they are in a bunker too across the way – you would have to make an even grander effort by actually crawling out of the comfort of the womb into the unknown and trudge across the field by yourself to find them. Alone, because more than likely you are the only person who has made the effort to abandon the bunker.
You would likely encounter opinions and languages unfamiliar to you. It would be an endless challenge with many rocky roads over previously unchartered territory. Yet you and you alone have the ability to forge your own path. When more and more people connect in a real, rather than artificial environment outside the bunker there may be peace, there may be war – but above all else it is pure, authentic, reality.
I find it interesting that out of the multitudes of very good people and very evil people – we often reduce their plurality to a few singular representations. So for example out of the countless people who committed atrocities in WWII you practically never hear of any explicit name associated with carte blanche evil other than Hitler. Out of all those involved in the movement for independence from India the only figure most can name is Gandhi. For all those in America who marched for civil rights, practically none are nameable by most aside from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
(Those in between good and evil always seem to fall through the cracks of history or are shoved into either the good box or the bad box by those who would prefer an ill fitting box with a label as opposed to no label at all – the absence of a box being completely incomprehensible to civilization as we know it.)
It’s as if there is so much stimuli in the given world at any moment that our consciousness cannot effectively categorize and memorialize all around us on a continual basis without having to “dump some data” every now and then.
Most people cannot deal in pluralities very effectively even with the most conscientious effort. Ironically, there are many cultures throughout the world that in terms of their mathematics only have words for 1,2,3 and then “many.” They readily admit that anything beyond 3 is too cumbersome to digest. Yet the so called advanced societies have throughout history often labeled these very same communities as primitive.
Hate is not an immaculate conception. It doesn’t suddenly burst onto the scene without intent. Whether knowledge of that intent is active or passive is another matter which only the bearer of the rotten fruit can truly ascertain with even a hint of accuracy.
Hate isn’t spread like pixie dust. It doesn’t just happen upon you by chance encounter with someone or something with which you have nothing in common. It is a slow growing pathogen which once fully in bloom is like the most stubborn of weeds that is practically impossible to eradicate. It is spread through contact with receptive hosts.
I do not believe there is any antidote that will ever completely erase its presence once it is within you. It can however be diminished into a state of dormant harmlessness. The most effective antidote that is known to all but practiced by few (not from lack of knowledge but from lack of will) is simply patience. The patience to lift unfamiliar veils and discern the truth for yourself.
It’s like Borges library of babel. The amount of knowledge that can be gleaned from any given situation is infinite. The more you investigate, the more paths you uncover. Surface knowledge is two dimensional at best and the worst casing for ammunition. It either fails to explode upon impact or in the worst scenarios it spreads its destruction indiscriminately.
I rarely find time to be a linear concept. It seems more often than not that it is either stagnant or in reverse. Stagnant in the sense that one day feels identical to the next due to routines we seem practically addicted to. Reverse, in that the world seems to forever recycle past catastrophes to experience them all over again. It’s almost like we crave adversity.
Even in the old sci-fi films the time machines rarely seem to go into the future, it always seems so much easier and irresistible to put it in reverse. Even though having either studied the distant past, or having lived through the recent past, we illogically feel that it would be exciting to tread the same ground over and over again instead of going into a future unknown.
Rarely when people give speeches do we remark, “wow that was a glimpse of the future.” It’s usually more along the lines of, “that reminded me of so and so.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen a speech that was so entirely “new” that people couldn’t fit it into a box whose label was already turning yellow from having been stuck there for so long. How refreshing it would be to hear an idea that wasn’t recycled from things long ago discarded.
There have been numerous times in my life when I have felt anchored and in many ways trapped by materialism. Having lived in the same house for 40+ years I have accumulated a lot of stuff as I imagine many others have as well. Every few years I sold off various things to try and make some room and a little money. No matter how much I sold it was still a daunting thought whenever I had the urge to move somewhere else. What would I do with the rest of the “stuff”? While it has provided me with a comfortable life, I think in many ways it has stifled the wanderer in me and perhaps that has not been such a good thing.
Since the death of my father I have found the notion of departing from even the most banal object, painful if not impossible. The entire house has been transformed from objects into memories. Everything is either something father gave me as a gift, something he used, something he never figured out how to use, etc. Practically everything evokes a memory of him in one way or another. Parting with any of it, especially for money, feels like a betrayal – a dismissal of all the memories it evokes.
I suppose the greatest testament to my father’s life is not that he had a lot of stuff, but my realization this Christmas that practically every object in this house was either a gift from him, or something he bought in order to exercise his creativity in order to inspire others. The house is full of the aromas of selflessness, purpose and light. How does one ever go back to looking at items as merely objects again?