This is a strange world that we live in. The thought struck me yesterday as I was sitting in my car. A wasp kept buzzing around me. It would disappear for a bit but then reappear every few minutes. I’m not sure what kept drawing it back to my car: it might have been something as simple as the wind kept blowing it back. But when I climbed out of my car and started walking across campus to go to class, I started to notice some of the other of our arthropod neighbors. Flying things and crawling things alike, all going on busily about the business of living. I thought about how just below the surface there was a world teeming with strange life: earthworms and beetles and ants.
Besides the creepy crawlies I noted more familiar wildlife. Squirrels skittering about on squirrel errands, and our distant avian cousins wheeling through the skies. And of course since animal life is stirring from its long winter’s nap the vegetable world was also springing to life. Dandelions, bane of allergy sufferers everywhere, blossomed and carpeted grassy fields with their yellow hue. Trees are budding, including some white flowering tree whose name I don’t know but whose beauty I appreciate.
Yes we live in a strange world. Why is it strange you ask? Think on the wasp. It lives a life so alien to ours it might well be from another world! It sees the world through compound eyes and ‘smells’ with antennae. And it can fly to boot! Think on the earthworm, tunneling through the cold wet earth. Think on the sharp eyed bird wheeling through the skies on thermals. And the humble squirrel, rooting for nuts.
Think about the plants, who have no brain nor nervous system, yet can always stretch themselves towards the sunlight they crave. They don’t move, nor do they react, yet they seem to be able thrive wherever they wind up. Life, in all of its bizarre and wonderful forms, is a very strange thing when you start to really look at it.
While I was musing on these things I heard footsteps approaching me from behind. It was a girl who I see every day, we park in the same lot, yet whose name I don’t know. She strode by me with ear buds in her ears as she usually does. The thought struck me that as alien as the lives of other species might be, how is it much different than the alien lives of our fellow humans? Certainly as human beings we share similar biology and the same evolutionary history. We can share experiences through common culture and languages. But how much of that is illusion? After all, I can never see through your eyes, hear with your ears, smell through your nose, touch with your skin, or taste with your tongue. I can never hear your thoughts, see your dreams, or feel your emotions.
We only catch a glimpse, just the barest glimpse, of each other’s inner lives. Through talk or touch or via electronic means: all of these things are glimpses into the person’s soul in that moment. But just that. A glimpse, a whisper, a mere murmur. Filtered through the lenses of language, perception, and social norm.
Is this a bad thing? Perhaps. I like to think it simply is. I can relate to you and your experiences through this wonderful facet of humanity called empathy. So while I can never directly experience the world as you do, I can try to approximate it.
This piece rambled and meandered. And there really isn’t much point. I just thought I would point out, in my own little way, that this is indeed a strange world.