log: strange encounter

벌레 일지 WORMDATE: L4: 1,628 – 236,366: 13 -2,215: 50.4 %

On the way home from Exercise Zone, I was thinking about how a lot of what we’re told about ourselves is complete bunk. This post will probably be a bit of a mess. More so than usual even. Probably sort of meandering and nonsensical.

Strange incident in the Exercise Zone. There’s a bench where I leave my gear while I’m working out. Bag, water bottle, that sort of thing. Between sets, I walk to the end of the zone, turn around, and come back. On my way back, there was a person. Small person dressed in light colors. I could not tell if they were man or woman or what age they were in the dark but they were quite petite. Sort of build I would associate with a thirteen year old.

They were bent over the bench examining my gear. I didn’t want to startle them. But how do you not startle someone alone in the woods at night? I thought a voice might be less scary than the sudden appearance of a sweaty shirtless stranger. So I called “안녕하세요.” The person said nothing. They turned and bolted down the path. It was all very quiet.

Spooky. Eerie. The whole thing happened over the course of a couple seconds. It was so quick that right after it ended, I was thinking: Did that just happen? I mean, I don’t think I’m hallucinating visitors in the woods at night but it happened so quickly and in such dark silence. The person looked strange. Small and indistinct and a dim gray glow. There was no evidence that anyone was even there. Not a sound as they ran away. It was just a very quick and strange encounter in the dark. Ghostly.

What were they even doing alone and afraid in the woods at 1AM? Same thing as me? I really hope I didn’t scare them too badly. And it’s just strange to have another human literally run away from you in fear after you say hello. Like, think of the last time that’s happened to you. I have a hard time thinking of a time it’s happened to me before tonight. It’s just not a thing that happens every day. Maybe if you’re a cop or something?

It’s weird for another reason. I’ve had some experiences that are sort of difficult to describe. I’m not sure if there’s even a term for it. They’re moments when time sort of collapses.

I’ll try to explain.

Once, when I was 18 or 19, something like that, after hitchhiking across Canada with a friend, we were camping on a beach on the western side of Vancouver Island. Primeval sort of territory. Nighttime. Had a campfire going. A dog suddenly approached. Now, a dog is usually a fine thing to see. But an unattended one in the wild area? It’s not quite as comfortable as your local pooch. It’s a little stranger. Touch more menacing.

The dog was fine. Belonged to a person walking it. But the weird thing about the incident was the brief moment of temporal dislocation. Something about it broke time. I might as well been sitting at a fire tens of thousands of years ago when a wolf first approached to beg. It just felt like some insight in a very basic human thing. On a very gut level.

I had always been taught that humans domesticated wolves and turned them into dogs. But in that moment, it felt totally clear that wolves had domesticated humans. Rather, that it was more like a partnership. The idea of domestication was some sort of human chauvinism. It was an idea that humans were in charge, animals were a sort of technology, and it was all some sort of power-mad human delusion about how things were.

I think this sort of idea, which respects the agency of wild animals, has grown in popularity in recent years, but, for me, at that time, it was certainly news. Just a sudden, intuitive, and pretty massive change in perception about the relationship between people and animals.

This felt like sort of similar hole in time. Kind of like a very basic version of some sort of first contact between different peoples. The mix of curiosity and fear. The person seeing evidence of inhabitation, investigating it, then being terrified by the sudden appearance of a stranger. My own feelings of suspicion –why are they looking through my stuff?– but basic, almost instinctual, desire to put the person at ease. And, of course, it all being so easily mishandled. Such a sudden bundle of curiosity, threat, fear, and hospitality.

We’re taught so often and so much that humans are so motivated by territory. And, being taught that, we often act that out. But, caught by surprise in the woods at night, my main feeling in that moment was wanting to let the person know I was harmless, the territory belonged to us both, and could be shared. And I think that’s a pretty normal way to feel.

Of course, that person’s frightened reaction was also normal and understandable. Sensible even. Meeting people is such a strange and iterated courtship. Maybe they’ll return some other night, with friends or a weapon, and it will be my turn to be scared. Who knows? But I suspect that through human history, meeting strangers often took a while. And, as we all know, hospitality has often not been the primary mover of such interactions. Especially recently.

But all this also makes me think of a thing I’ve heard a lot recently and while this pandemic has worn on. It’s the idea that we can no longer trust people. I understand it. I don’t feel that way. If anything, I feel like I trust the people around me more than I did at the start.

Now, I say that knowing that bosses stay bosses and clowns are going to stay clowns, but overall, I’ve been really impressed by how the people I know have handled this whole thing.

That’s not to say it’s easy. I understand the feeling of distrust and how you can get caught up in it. I’ve been there. This thing has really taken a toll on some relationships. For me, family, mainly. Relatives have acted in ways or just spoken about it in a way I find totally immoral and disgusting. I’m not even sure that whatever is left of our relationship survives this thing.

I hate that. I hate the whole thing. I hate not only hating their actions or words and I hate how hating that makes me feel both sanctimonious and insane. It’s like — I just don’t know how to communicate that a person is to my mind being so ridiculously selfish and stupid that it’s basically impossible for me to even be in their company anymore. And to terminate a blood relationship over it? It feels like a lot. But I do have to tend to my own state of mind.

So, yeah. I get that. And I get the devastating impact that shit has on trust. And I understand the rage at these people. As people, once again, try to coddle the conservative and the comfortable, to understand and accommodate the feelings of people who won’t even wear a mask, the rage against these selfish dickheads is really being underestimated. The sort of anger I feel towards them doesn’t feel like something that can worked out with a tantrum at the Walmart. It is heavier and hotter than that. It’s a grudge.

But when I think about how the people I’ve chosen to know have acted, I have to admit, I’ve been more often surprised by how well they’ve acted than how badly. In most cases, there’s been little surprise. People have very much been themselves. But usually, people have surprised me in pleasant ways. I know some people who I would have said it was 50-50 or so if they went totally microchip believer anti-vax or whatever, and in all of those cases, they’ve accepted the science and been reasonable. I feel like people have been good?

Of course, this is and has been the sort of situation where a small amount of assholes have a really outsized effects. They hit far above their weight. Even psycholigcally.

I’m not sure what my point is. I suppose, just kind of take a moment sometimes to think about all the people who know who are acting right. You’re not crazy and you’re not alone.

In other news

Wife snapped that pic of me. I’m a mess though. Just walked through a high-rise wind-tunnel, and it was hot, humid, and kind of post-typhoony feeling. But I kind of like it all the same. Looks like a late 80s music video where you have like the word “LIES” projected onto you or whatever. That was actually a projection of “NO” that turned backwards.

Started my Evolutionary Biology and Medicine class. One week in, I like it. It’s going well. Kind of an interesting make up to the class. A combination of freshman anthro majors and people finishing up their degrees in biochemistry. That has to be fun to teach.

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