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I have walked by night on the wild empty beaches of Michoacan when the moon, at its full, aimed a silver path at me over the restless waters, when the wind blew chill and strong from the sea, and the waves, come from China perhaps, rose and roared and crashed and ran up the sands, over and over, over and over, and I have thought, do we know what the fuck we are doing? Is there nothing our sorry species, dirty as monkeys, will not make worse?

I wonder whether we are not on the earth by accident. We have no love of it, no reverence, no restraint before things we do not understand. I do not think we belong here.

The wind has always enchanted me. I hear in it…I hear in it…what? Something larger, older, apart, something that does not care about us, pro or con. How does one say this to a thoughtless rabble twiddling video games? To them the beach is prime real estate for development into tee-shirt emporia, boardwalks, and jet-ski rentals for ill-mannered adolescents.

What is this? We live, we die. We destroy, we strut and fret, we burn, we live apart from the world. We are fools, imbecile children, a disease on the earth, a brief noise. We do not belong here.

Others belong. On the porch in the outskirts of our small Mexican town, La Coyota sleeps. She is a street dog, a starveling puppy when we took her in. She flourished, grew deep of chest and long-legged and when opportunity arose to the dry brown hills that rise a hundred yards from our door. She is domestic because it suits her, ours because she wants to be, but there is a savage streak in her. She is the color of the parched earth, fast, well fanged. She doesn’t need us. By night she runs through the matorral and broken rock, content in the darkness, fearless for it is her world, scenting on the wind things closed to our dull senses, hearing wisps and traces of sound beyond the high edge of our hearing. She does not wear shoes, need spectacles, require packaged food from a market. She belongs in the world. We force ourselves on it.

Soon she will not run in the hills. They are putting a road through to relieve the pressure of population. It is thought urgent that people be quickly able to get to CostCo, which in a large parking lot where one may buy crates of tomato catsup for bargain prices.

I do not understand. We breed incontinently as flies, spread like impetigo, and burn and cut and poison and bulldoze. To what end? Why is a lake, solitary and wild, made better by a subdivision of six thousand units, with unnecessary children littering the pavement with plastic bottles while their parents gawp at televisions? Yes, I know. It is Progress. I just don’t see why it is.

I wonder what the world must have been a million years ago, before our sordid race of moralizing apes arose to invent the sewage outfall, before we learned to perforate the floor of the floor of oceans and poison whole seas with the bile of the inner earth. Yes, I know of property rights and the desperate need for the economy to grow, though to what end I cannot imagine. It seems to me that we should strive to shrink the economy. Pelicans and seals do not grow their economies and, I think, seldom use bulldozers. Yet they prosper.

We lack respect. There is more to the world than parking lots, much that would inspire reverence in a race less boorish. There are things in heaven and earth. But how does one explain this to a corporate magnate who believes that we must increase tthe birth rate to compete with the Chinese?

I have dived a hundred and twenty feet below the tropic seas, where light fades to wan blue and color dies, myself an alien creature depending on tanks of air, and seen the rays. Oh yes, the rays. As we finned along a deep wall, encrusted with nightmare shapes of mushrooms that were not mushrooms, tangled wires that were not wires, in a realm not ours yet not hostile, just not interested in us, the rays winged by. There were four, almost in formation, chill wings rising and falling, fast, at home in the depths. I wondered where they were going.

A million years ago they did this, and a million years hence, they will again, unless we poison them. Above us our bubbles rose and broke, rising and rising. We did not belong there.

Everywhere we are tourists in the world, collegiate vandals trashing an ancient Lauderdale. We have grown large upon the earth, but we do not belong here. We do not know how to behave.

The immense beingness of a dark forest, the tens of millions of things—winged things, crawling things, hunting things, plants and moss and mold, soft hungry things in decomposing logs, ants, moths with huge spectral eyes, all in the intricate endless dance of life—these we do not know; we say chitinous exoskeleton and Gibb’s free energy and adenosine triphosphate and Darwin, and believe we understand when we understand nothing, not whence nor whither now why nor how. In university I knew a white mouse, escaped from the biology people, that lived in the computer lab. Perhaps it thought it understood where it was because it could find the crumbs of potato chips left by students and the warm spot under the power supply. So with us. We can just about find the warm spots.


A hazard of being the most intelligent creature in the neighborhood is that it fosters an illusion of omniscience. Today we prostrate ourselves before the sciences, which tell us tales of origin and destiny, about which they know nothing and can guess less than the most minor of poets. But we have no poets, and so accept the solemn narrow twaddle of the laboratories. Oh well. Perhaps the best that can be said of scientists is that the brightest of a large number of hamsters is still a hamster.

The rumble and growl of bulldozers begins in the hills. I need a drink.

(Republished from Fred on Everything by permission of author or representative)
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