We had a huge windstorm last night. It did a small amount of damage, knocking things over and filling the pool with leaves and sticks, but thankfully no buckets of dust, as Phoenix regularly suffers. The wind came on a little after 9:30, when I was half-dozing in bed, hanging onto enough consciousness to let me know when 10 pm came, and I could sit up in bed and watch Eric McCormack do another episode of the TV show Perception.
In the show, he plays a schizophrenic genius; a man who struggles with the fine line between the medication that allows him to function (as a university professor and sometimes assistant to homicide detectives) and his own intellect.
I’ve known or studied people like this before- one of my first interests in the concept of balancing a fix with a life is a great story in an Oliver Sacks book (The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat perhaps) about a man with Tourette’s who divides his time between being responsibly medicated and allowing his genuine creative mind to exist unfettered.
His family enable him in this as a function of kindness, and they do lovely things for him, like collect tasty words or phrases or names for him to chew on. I am deeply touched by this.
I’ve always been grateful for my very strong ability to cope with the world; no matter how odd I am, or how different my experience is, I am aware of the common reality, I understand the need for it, and I can move within it successfully and seamlessly. I can be “other” and yet still function cleanly. It would be very hard not to be able to do this.
Last night’s Perception featured the professor off his meds completely; when he does this, he sees and has conversations with people who are not actually there; he has a hard time separating his reality from the common reality unless he recognizes the individual he is talking to as a regular character of his subconscious.
There is much we don’t know about the world around us, and worlds we cannot guess at within the other inhabitants. If we can’t talk to a thing, for example, we tend to devalue its capability or potential. We are shocked when we learn that plants do basic calculations to decide about how to make it through the night, or that they communicate actively through fungal networks at their roots (and take pre-emptive action if they learn that a pest has infested a neighbor) or that animals navigate by the stars, or the magnetic poles, or that mice learn and sing individual songs, or that whales have racial memory.
Why we are surprised by these things is one question (and the answer is human hubris and lack of imagination) but why we discount the possibility that plants have awareness of the world around them or animals have language or emotion (even after faced with so much data to the contrary) is another. I wish science was more open to mystery, but then, of course, it wouldn’t be science.
It strikes me strongly that humancentric hubris is all that stands between us and our ability to bond with the natural world.