I was standing there, nervously shifting my weight back and forth from one foot to the other as my peers filed in, choosing their seats for the presentation. Jack (as he invited me to call him), tried to make small talk, which helped to calm me down. He was President of the World’s largest food company, and accustomed to being the center of attention. I was just a dumb-ass kid who’d made a multi-million dollar discovery by disregarding a direct order from my superior (Peter). I had a theory which he disbelieved in, and so instructed me not to waste time on it. Then he left for 2 weeks holiday. While he was gone … the mouse played. To his credit, Peter couldn’t have been more pleased, and supportive of me. It was actually him who nominated me for this highest award the company could give. He chose not to sit amongst the crowd, but to stand and grin proudly at me from the North wing of the room. I don’t recall much of what I said that morning, except “Were it not for the unequalled guidance and leadership of Peter, this would never have happened”. Twenty-eight years later, he remains amongst my closest friends.
That was my proverbial “15 minutes of fame” that Andy Warhol suggested we’d all experience in our Lifetimes. I was young and impressionable back in 1986 and so thought that was as good as it was gonna get. Thirteen years later, I found myself trying to haul my pet python out from under a particularly heavy and low, piece of furniture. Should you ever need to know, this is how to get a python out from under something, when you’ve only got about 6 inches of its tail in hand, and 4 feet of python already gone. Slide your hand slowly along it’s body toward the tail. Do it as though the snake’s slipping away from you. As you slide your hands, one over the other to give the effect of a constantly moving body, gently pull back on the python. It feels to the snake like he/she is making progress and moving along quite nicely. It won’t be until you pull it close enough the edge, that it’ll see the light and suddenly bolt ! Just before that point you gently, yet firmly, yank it out. If you’ve fed it within the last week or two, there’s a good chance you’ll squeeze the gases from its last dinner out its back end.
Make no mistake my friends, even a mere four foot long python can rip off a “cheek flapper” (despite lacking buttocks) of eye-blinding, and sinus draining magnitude. Snake farts reek of ammonia, and could peel the paint off a Chevy’s fender. Most people would fear being strangled in their sleep, eaten alive, or crushed like a rodent by the inhuman, cold-blooded, godless reptilian demon which is the snake. But those of us who know … fear their farts, and that’s all. It was while recuperating and drying my severely tearing eyes (partly from the snake fart, and partly from laughing until I ripped one off myself) that I realized I could honestly make the rarest of claims. I have indeed heard a python fart. How many people can say that ? OK, admittedly, how many people would want to say that ?
My point here is simply that, I worked in the Research & Development division of the afore-mentioned company for 13 years. Every year, someone amongst the 1200 employees got that award. I just happened to be one of them. But of the other recipients over those years, how many of them ever heard a python fart ? I’d confidently wager … none !
Life is a matter of priorities, and priorities change over time. What’s important today will mean nothing tomorrow. “Claims to fame” are the high points in our Lives, our reason not, to just step in front of a train. We like to consider ourselves above others, and need reason to do so. Our unique experiences are what we reflect upon, and employ in later Life, to assure us of our worth.
Consider what you’ve experienced. What you’ve accomplished. I don’t mean what you’ve managed to get or do, like everyone else. I mean those experiences which set you apart, and above the norm. We live in a “joiners” society. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, LinkedIn, Flickr, SKYPE, Yelp, Vimeo, Myspace, and for that matter … WordPress, the power behind the very weblog you’re reading right now. I’m wondering if the other users of these networks feel unique, if they consider themselves different from everyone else. There was a time when that was very important to individuals. Perhaps the time of individuality has passed ?
I have seen a blue Jay stalk, kill, and fly away with a field mouse. I have seen Great Blue Herons flying in a “V” formation, just like Canada Geese. I watched a dragonfly eat a mosquito while resting on the gunwale of my canoe. I saw a parasitic wasp trick a spider into coming close enough to be grabbed, and carried away to an unsavory fate. I have watched Giant Promethea and Polyphemus moths slowly pump blood into their huge wings after emerging from their cocoons. I have seen a school of perch beach themselves at my feet to evade a cruising muskie just eight feet offshore. I have watched dragonfly larvae split their backs open and burst forth with magnificent wings. I watched a giant waterbug and a crayfish fight to the death (the crayfish lost). I chased a red squirrel out of a goldfinch’s nest as it was eating the last of the hatchlings. I’ve watched otters toboggan on their bellies down a grassy hill into a remote lake. I’ve seen blood red auroras and billion year old rocks falling from space in a flash of blazing glory.
I’ve never seen (nor ever will) the pyramids of Giza, the ruins of Machu Picchu, the wonders of the Amazon Basin, the Galapagos archipelago, or the Antarctic continent. And that’s probably just as well. With that much stimuli, my brain would go off like a mid-range nuclear device. It’s your choice whether to “see the World” or “see” the World. Whatever your decision, makes no never mind to me. You have and will, experience many wonderful things in Life, as have I.
“There’s nothing compares to lying in bed listening to the gondoliers singing in the canals of Venice” I was once told by a World traveller. I’m sure she believed that to be true. But had she ever really heard a python fart ?
I think not.