Theodore Sturgeon wrote of group think, or bleshing, as he called it, in his novel More Than Human. The idea is simple, founded on minds working together, the sum of the parts being greater than the whole, celebrated by many in the arts, such as Phil Lesh of The Grateful Dead. It is the dream of musicians and anarchists alike, to be at one with each other, to guide and at the same time follow, and yet it is just that, an impossible dream for anything practical. Human nature is the flaw, our inherent need to always want something more for ourselves. Adam Smith and his capitalist crew celebrate this in what we can achieve – always in terms of monetary success – but it’s a far cry from all those other things we are told to cherish, and in the end, just don’t give a damn about. We lie to ourselves about everything – about who we are and we will achieve – just to get through and not think about the world as we have made it.
I have read Rudyard Kipling’s The Elephant’s Child quite a number of times in recent days for my 92-year-old mother who has Alzheimer’s. While Kipling’s work certainly is dated – with inherent racism, constant spankings and all-out revenge as major themes – it does have surprising merits, beyond the fact that my mother still remembers this story exceptionally well.
For one, there is the phrase ‘satiable curtiosity’, repeated throughout. A mash-up of courtesy and curiosity, it’s the Elephant’s Child’s ‘satiable curtiosity that gets him his trunk and makes him the envy of the jungle.
There is also Kipling’s idiosyncratic notes to his illustrations – mocking his own work – that provides, as they say, meta perspective on the work. But most intriguing of all is the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake, a sinister character to be sure, which beats and tricks our hero, but in the end actually saves the Elephant’s Child from being eaten by the crocodile. He also teaches him what an effective tool his trunk actually is – even if it is to go home and beat up his abusive family…all very odd, something to ponder, when I read it once again.
When people tell you about their weekend in the Hamptons, remember that the truth of it is all traffic…neighbors blaring Katy Perry…the construction next door…as well as 45-minute deli lineups. And, only if they’re lucky, maybe 10 minutes of what they claim.
Seven straight weeks of writing an average of 3-5 hours a day, culminating in 55,000 words, more than half of my second science fiction work has left me feeling empty. I think that I have done something – a summer well spent – and then I think, “So much for what?”
Margret Wittmer was an early pioneer in the Galapagos, arriving on Floreana Island in 1935:
At the end of July, 1938, I was working in the garden when I heard zooming sound overhead, I could see two airplanes somewhere over Floreana and then nothing but a vibration in the air. For a long time, we stood on the hill looking in the direction from which the planes had come.The next morning, just as we were finishing breakfast, Sergio came panting in, waving two letters, one from the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt. “I am on board the United States Cruiser Houston, and radioed two of our escort planes to fly above your farm with a signal that we would come to Black Beach. I hoped you would come down there and we could take you out on the Houston in a launch. Unfortunately she was there two hours without your turning up. I shall hope to make you acquaintance another time.”
I went over to one of the windows from my childhood home and touched the handle. Behind my back, in the big room, there was nothing I remembered, nothing at all. So now I knew that my memories dwelled in a place that didn’t exist, a place that been swept from the face of the earth, and those four rooms, that bathroom, and that kitchen lived only in me. All the things that once seemed irremovable were gone. The toilet was dust; the plates were dust; the beds were dust. There was not a trace of my family’s passage; our smell had disappeared forever.
The New York Times hyped it like crazy. So did my friends. “The eclipse is the thing, man. We gotta go!”
I thought little of it until I was driving home to Toronto and, on a manic whim, instead of sticking to Interstate 80, I veered down 81 toward Virginia and the eclipse.I calculated that I could get as far as Roanoke, Virginia, which I learned through my app would have 92% coverage, and that sounded like something indeed, far more intense than 84%, which is all I would have had if I stayed my course.
Electronic signs began to appear at the side of the road. Solar Eclipse today 12-4pm. No stopping on shoulder or ramps. The interstate was heavily traffic, trucks lining the right lane as far as I could see, but it seemed right. We were all journeying down together, a convoy, to see this astronomical event. I listened solely to Off the Sky, brooding electronic music, perfect for the approaching darkness. I reached the Virginia border, only 234 miles to Roanoke. Only. Ten minutes later, I realized that was well over three more hours of driving which meant another three hours back. I was getting in deep. I focused on the music and the historic moment to come – the sky darkening, animals scattering, humans collectively moaning. It was going to be something, to be sure.
I gassed up less than a hundred miles away, ready to talk to the cashier about the moment to come, but she and a man from Texas were talking in amazed terms instead about the cost of cigarettes in New York. “$15?! That’s two meals for me! Who would be dumb enough to pay that?”
Back on the highway, it got suddenly dim. I looked up. Just a cloud. I drove madly – I needed as much coverage as possible! – until 2:35, five minutes ahead of the full 92% and pulled into a gas station. A van pulled in and two bikers. I looked up. The sun looked the same. I went into the store and bought a can of Chipotle Pringles. The woman looked tired, bored, completely uninterested in this remarkable event. I went back outside. The light began to dim. It cooled quickly, at least 10 degrees below the high of 95. Two people came around behind their van and donned polarized glasses and looked up. Another took a picture of them. “Eclipse!” I looked at my watch. It was 2:41. It had passed. Had I missed it? I wasn’t sure. I was going to borrow their glasses but was afraid they might be the unsafe kind and so looked into the sky again. It was getting hotter, brighter. Yes, it was over. It was eleven hours – a eight-hour detour in the end – to get to Toronto. I listened to nothing for a while, just the tires clicking over the asphalt. And I thought about the next eclipse, only seven years away. I can hardly wait.