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||Edwin Drood's Column
||25 June 2010
|Short guide to small planet for smallest person|
|In which the Drood waxeth broody over his much-adored great-niece and launches for her tiny sake into a song of somewhat differentiated praise for the planet which is our uncommonly common home.|
“Ask anyone,” he muttered, as he spat a small, brilliant blue insect whirring into the gauze. “I would advise stilts for the quagmires, and camels for the snowy hills, and any survivors, their debts I will certainly pay. There’s always a way, there's always a way.”
I smiled with that gallantly-concealed, forceful nervousness that has proved that oysters cry and that I have come to know and accept as myself.
(Robin Williamson: “Creation”- The Incredible String Band)
Dearest, darling little earthling, I cannot express how much I love you and how adorably cute you are.
It’s true, your ears do stick out a bit, but that may be just because you’re still trying to capture signals from home. Well, get used to it, from now on this is
home. Generally the only way out of here is in a box. Tough, but there it is.
But good things come in boxes too, like presents (those things you unwrap while waiting for the future ... wish I’d said that ... you will Edwin, you will), breakfast cereals (the superior kind you kid yourself is going to be healthy as well as the trashy, fun kind), all seven seasons of West Wing, cool stuff from the Apple store etc.
There’s a lot you need to know about life down here. I’ll try to cover some of it in the lines that follow. People will ask you: “how’s things?” That’s not what they mean, because mostly the things are OK; the trouble generally starts with the people. They say everyone has a price and a pain threshold. I find that cynical, but it’s sure that everyone has a handle somewhere. Knowing how to find it and grab it is one of the primary skills you’ll need to learn. I see you’re doing a lot better than average already, so no clouds on that horizon.
|“From both sides now” (Joni Mitchell)|
Speaking of clouds, they come in all shapes and sizes. The planet infrastructure provider delivers a 24-hour flexible service with variable humidity, wind, temperature and light-intensity modules. In places where it’s stuck on one particular cycle they call it climate. Otherwise it’s called weather. There will be days when you will feel like a super-trooper and other days when you will feel more like a pooper-scooper. Sometimes this will be due to the weather, a feature you will occasionally find yourself metaphorically as well as literally “under”, but mostly these feelings will be due more to the “whether”, in other words the variables surrounding your body-mind interface (but more of that, much later). Anyhow, not to lose sight of the rabbit, part of the 24-hour flexible service is clouds. Some of them look like white fluffy elephants and dragons and stuff. Others will get you seriously wet. Avoid the toxic ones and the radioactive ones: they are not part of the service, but an aberration produced by poor management at the human level.
The human level is where most things that can go wrong do go wrong. Of course, like any planet, there are various thermo-dynamic surface movements and internal changes, a lot like growing pains; these can result in quakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes and the like. However, the way that the humans almost always seem unprepared for such predictable, and often avoidable, events will strike you as absurd. In places where snow can be expected to fall now and then over a four or five month period, entire cities are gridlocked by the first flurry of the season. And the people whom an otherwise benevolent nature has placed in the path of tropical storms or lava flows seem congenitally incapable of developing any kind of plan that goes much beyond waiting with indifferent fatalism for them to happen and then groaning around in the aftermath. The disasters of their own making are far more spectacular. I suggest you start with the Hundred-Years War, the First and Second World Wars, take a swerve around the deforesting of Russia, India, South America, Britain (by the Romans), New Zealand (by the Maori) and most of Africa by its own inhabitants. Then there are oil spills, landfills, radioactive leaks, ozone peaks, rivers than never reach the sea and even seas that cease to be. The humans have an apparently illimitable capacity for fouling their own nest. It doesn’t stop once they get out of diapers.
|“Gravity always wins” (Radiohead)|
Take a little time to get used to the gravity down here. Unsettling isn’t it? You’ll feel a bit wobbly for a while, too. That’s because the earth turns towards the light. This is a phototropic planet, which is nice, but it can make you dizzy if you’re not used to it. Fortunately you get extra padding on your bum for the first year or so until you stop having to sit rather abruptly. Gravity brings you down. It absorbs a lot of your energy and can get rather depressing. All things are subject to it except the human spirit. Remember that and you’ll never entirely lose hope.
There will always be those who will try to subject your spirit to gravity as well. They are, for the most part, harmless charlatans and pious frauds. But others are dangerous due to their insidious and unnerving tendency to believe that they speak for the creator of the universe. They seek to subjugate you by proxy. They will colonize your mind and your sense of self. Be very careful. The best thing is to ignore them and pass by on the other (more sunny) side of the street. Do not confuse them with “faith”, that is a far nobler and greater thing altogether. You will know them by their fruits.
Things change very fast these days. The humans will tell you that the pace of change is increasing. Certainly they’ve gone rather quickly from primitive flying machines to giving up on space flight altogether. They’re also very good at communication devices but not quite so good at communication. If a thing can be misunderstood here it probably will be, so be careful what you say, how you act, how you look etc. as there is always someone watching and listening and judging. Nine tenths of human communication is done without words, which is just as well when you see the knots that their languages tie them into. The last tenth is, however, considered very important. They even have “language frontiers” in some areas, where you will be expected to open your heart to inspection for insidious cultural and linguistic baggage. Fortunately, bodies and minds confer over these frontiers without much difficulty, which is why folk keep on marrying and having offspring, just like you dear heart, across all kinds of barriers.
|“B-b-b-bad to the bone” (George Thorogood)|
Apropos body talk and things changing: at some time in the not too distant future you, as a member of the special sex, will start to get even softer and curvier. This will involve the appearance of some rather nice puffy bumps that boys will feel irresistibly drawn to touch. You’ll need to develop a policy about those. Stun guns and thermo-nuclear devices are a good idea, though looks that kill will usually dissuade all but the most foolhardy. However, among the males of the species, foolhardiness and bad-to-the-bone heads are rather more the norm than the exception. So expect to acquire quite a large vocabulary of ways to say “no”.
I must admit, as an inductee I was very impressed at the time by the binary aspect: yes/no, hot/cold, male/female etc. It certainly spices life up quite a lot, but it’s not always easy to deal with. Among the things that first attracted me to the place, together with the promises of toast, marmalade and coffee, was the promise of girls. They told me there would be lots of them. The toast and the marmalade were relatively easy to come by. Coffee needed some work to get right. But the girls still remain somewhat of a mystery; both the finding and the keeping raise major emotional and logistical issues. Bear this in mind when you find yourself faced with an important decision: the word rhymes with division, incision, and other painful stuff. Tread carefully in the chambers of the human heart.
They have days of the week out here, too, though only seven of them, and they’re rather short. Nevertheless, on some sunny Sunday afternoons, lying lazily in the long grass of a deliciously cool river-bank, blinking up at their attractively buttery-yellow and comfortingly single sun, you will, at least for a few fleeting moments, think that life on earth is pretty much perfect. Hold on to that feeling. It may turn out to be the only one that really matters.
Love you bunches,
Your great uncle Edwin
© Edwin Drood
Illustration: "Selenia with truck". Photo by © Martine Passagez 2010
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