Monday, September 19, 2016

Being a Human

The story has been bopping around out there, flitting near the surface of my consciousness.  It's the tale of this Brit who wanted to know...first hand and existentially...what it was like to be a badger.  What do badgers think?  How do they experience the world?

In order to accomplish this, he started spending his time snuffling along the ground like a badger.  He began to regularly eat what badgers eat, meaning he developed a sophisticated gourmand's grasp of the nuances of worm-meat.

The "eating worms" bit is a serious hook.

He also 'became' other creatures.  Stags.  Badgers.  Otters.  Swifts, too, apparently, although I'd love to know how he managed to fly well enough to catch gnats.

This, of course, makes a great pitch for a book.  Which, of course, was the whole idea.

It's fascinating.  Here, the effort to encounter reality from the perspective of an animal, something that's hard for we humans to get at, what with our big brains and our bipedal ambulation and our general disconnect from our own animal nature.

I was thinking about this the other day, because I was walking.

Or rather, I was walking again.  For years, I'd taken long walks as a part of my weekly routine.  When my younger son was in multi-hour rehearsals, I'd work for a bit in the library, then take hour-long rambles through neighborhoods.  It was time to observe, time to think.

When he stopped taking drums, I stopped walking as much.  The pattern was broken.  I spent more time driving.  More time on social media.  More time around the house.

And it made me...well...fidgety.  A little more anxious.  A little heavier.  A little less creative.

My soul felt it, that ineffable wholeness of self, meat and spirit woven up into the unique particularity of my person.  Not walking weighed on my soul.

I needed to walk.  So as I run errands, I walk.  They take longer, because I get out and use myself to get myself there.

And it struck me, as I walked, that the full engagement of my body was as strange to our peculiar mechanized way of life as being a badger or a stag or a fox.

As I walk, I am using my limbs as they were intended.  I am erect, my eyes and ears and nose alert to the world.  I am not encased in steel, the scents of tree and grass filtered away by climate control.  I am hearing the world for which I am so well evolved, the sound of wind, the hum of tire on the road.  I see light and detail, the crumbling granularity of American roads, the details of homes, the rustle of a deer in the underbrush.

When I choose to walk, I am not being maximally productive, not optimizing my time, not being efficient.

But I am being human.

It's a good thing, remembering what it is to be human.