by Marc Piane
Outside In is a story that is about nothing and everything. It is a journey into the mind of our hero. It is an allegory. Or maybe its a metaphor. Or maybe it’s a whole lot of bs. It is a story in installments. I don’t even know how it will end. What I do know is what has happened so far. Catch yourself up to really appreciate the next installment Connection. Or don’t.
As a hiked down the trail I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for the things that had happened on the trip so far. The birds, the moon, the mice, the rocks. My mind started to wander to the interconnectedness of everything. I tend to shy away from the whole string theory/physical connection thing mostly because my understanding of it is pedestrian at best. It may very well be true, but what is more interesting to me is the intersection of life experience. With every interaction we forever change the trajectory of each other.
I started to get nostalgic for my home, my bed, my friends. Being from a big city I’m always struck by something. There are so many people going every which way trying as hard as they can to NOT intersect with anyone else. Trying so hard that when a chance for intersection does happen it is met with annoyance. Smartphones have become the ultimate avoidance tool. I like to think that every interaction or life experience helps us build our understanding of the universe. Going through life with blinders on just isolates us from each other and the world around us.
Just then I was snapped out of my ponder by a rustling of leaves. I had been hearing rustling all along the hike, but it was mostly squirrels and chipmunks. This sounded different. The squirrel sounds were frantic. Quick and darting. This was much slower and more deliberate. It was also louder. I froze in my tracks and listened. There were bears in this area. Mostly black bears, but definitely not someone you wanted to meet in a dark alley.
I had no idea where the sound came from. A number of years ago I had lost hearing in one of my ears. My brain had compensated for the loss of hearing and I hardly noticed it except when I had to triangulate the location of a sound. Without 3 points you can’t make a triangle. As a stood there frozen I kept trying to figure out where the sound came from. Even just deciding which side of the trail it came from would help.
Perception is an interesting phenomenon. Even something as simple as how our senses work mechanically influences our perception of the physical world. The mechanical influencing the visceral and vice versa.
I stood there for about another minute. There was no further rustling. What made that sound? My mind started to wander to all the things that could have made it. As a went down the list in my mind I started to check of what it couldn’t be. It could not be a T-Rex. I was positive of that so it was easy to rationalize. It could not be an alligator. This required a little more mental wiggling to decide. While not indigenous to this area, what if someone had a pet that escaped. But way up in the mountains it was pretty cold. Alligators are cold blooded. They need warmth. Then I started to rattle of the animals that I knew it could be. Black bear, deer, possum, raccoon, skunk, squirrel, mouse, snake. These were all real possibilities.
No more sound. I started to move. Slowly at first. Like I was sneaking up on someone. One step at a time trying not to step on any twigs as that would surely give me away. Gradually I sped up until I was at my regular cadence.
The sound was forever relegated to the history books. Was it a T-Rex? Was it an alligator? Was it a bear? Since I had no empirical data to support a theory it didn’t matter. Whatever it was would forever exist in my imagination, which is sometimes as powerful as real life. What I did know as my mind wandered back to intersecting experience is that neither I nor the sound would be the same again. We both were forever changed.