Post Script. Below, we offer pictures of "Big Ben".
Given the tragic events that took place in Manchester, England, we here at The Pickford Word have decided to reprint a pair of our blogs. We are feeling the same emotions as before: to quote the great Yogi Bera, “It’s deja vu all over again.” And upon revisiting the articles, we still find our logic to be impeccable. We cannot say “enjoy”. We can ask that you keep the dead and the wounded, as well as their families and friends, in your heads and hearts. And then act (as in, “to take action”), accordingly.
Post Script. Below, we offer pictures of "Big Ben".
By Meg Langford
Just when we were having to spend a bit too much time worried, preoccupied about autumnal issues like how the kids are doing as they get back into the rhythm of school, and how our favorite football team is going to fare this season, and whether or not we are going to have to spend another Thanksgiving with our least favorite drunk uncle, and what to get whom for Christmas … well, along come the Attacks on Paris, distracting us. To call the Attacks on Paris a distraction seems horribly callous, cruel, and petty, I admit, but are any of us this side of the pond really going to do anything about them? Probably not. So of course they are a distraction. A mere distraction. The merest distraction. I know, I know, I have probably already made you mad. But bear with me. Follow my logic …
As far as I can see, KNOWLEDGE—learning things in the world and about the world, discovering news and history and fun facts on the web—it only serves three purposes:
And let’s face it. When we surf the web, it’s usually # 3, right? What was the last time you read something on the web and it fundamentally changed who you are? When was the last time it changed you, for good and for real, even a little bit? And how often does what you encounter on the web even impact your actions—oh, and no, surfing to another website because the first website has planted that idea in your head does not count as action. Nor does the impulse to shop, eat, drink, or indulge in onanism, because of something you saw on the web. I am talking about real, outside the box, making a difference sort of action. And so I am guessing that, as heartbroken as you feel about what happened in Paris, you are not upset to the point where you are going to commit yourself to being changed by it. From it. Because of it. And I am guessing that, as heartbroken as you are, it’s not going to change the way you live your life—the things you do every day. So unless you plan to take this incident, or some equally hellish conglomeration of incidents like it, yes, unless you plan to let it CHANGE WHO YOU ARE (NUMBER ONE), or CHANGE WHAT YOU DO in life (NUMBER TWO), then you should acknowledge it for what it is—a distraction. A distraction that makes you feel things, and think a rush of thoughts, and chat heatedly with the other distracted people around you—but still, it remains, nonetheless, a mere distraction from the life you live. And don’t you owe it to the dead to thank them for that? After all, the French invented the term “ennui”, so if anybody would respect a ruthless approach to escaping it, it would be the French.
Let’s face it. We all heard the about the attack. We saw the headlines, we read the stories, we watched the footage, and we soaked in those photographs--moments in time capturing horror, and pain, and sometimes heroism. (This is about the time we could have started asking ourselves the serious question of what were we going to do about it?) But no, then, oh then, we moved onto the forums, the comments. Understandable, yes, because hearing what everybody else is thinking and feeling makes us feel less alone, and the last thing we want to experience as World War III is breaking out, is that sense of being completely on your own.
But the forum comments were predictable too, and like anything that is predictable and redundant, it was rather a waste of our time. I did a highly scientific analysis of every comment made on all the forums in the world and here is what I gleaned: in addition to about 4000 “OMD’S”—this is a French story, after all—33 percent blamed the Bleeding Heart Liberals (letting those damn refugees in), about another third blamed the Heartless Conservatives (damned imperialism, ramming the American flag up the sphincter of every country in the Middle East), a predictable 17 percent blamed Obamacare, 11 percent had a direct line to God Almighty and told us what He wanted us to know about it, and about 5 percent reassured us it was OK, it was going to be fine, because they knew a way that we could make $80 dollars an hour on the internet, first week out of the gate, just as that forum poster’s neighbor and sister-in-law had been doing, to hear them tell it. And on and on the comments go.
Really? Seriously? Isn’t it starting to feel like you are wasting your time? Like you could be doing something more productive in the world right about now? Most of us passed the point of keeping up with current events, of doing diligence as citizens of the world, but we just kept going. Surfing. The average American spends between 9-11 hours a day plugged into the world wide web. That’s millions upon millions of human hours frittered away every day. Imagine, just imagine what would happen if we all committed to taking just a fraction of those hours and used them to volunteer for something—a suggestion harder and harder to deflect with excuses, since you can even volunteer for things while sitting online. The net result would be billions of volunteer hours making the world a better place.
What does it really mean when we spend time perusing the coverage of the Attacks on Paris? I’d say it’s the cyber equivalent of rubbernecking at an accident. We all know there are three kinds of people who pass scenes of bloody carnage on the public roads: People who give the dead and dying and injured their privacy. People who have an attraction to gore. And people who look, but when they look, they are flooded with a sense of “There but for the grace of God go I”--and it jolts them into realizing that it can all be over at any moment, and it makes them a little more grateful for their own life, and the people in it. So Paris is like bloody carnage in the middle of the road: are you going to use Paris as an opportunity to change, and to embrace the frailty of life, the ephemeral nature of being, and to then live life more intensely? To love more deeply? Or are you going to rubberneck, drive on home, fix a cocktail, and watch “Wheel of Fortune”? Or whatever it is that you do when you are deep in the throes of not changing a damn thing about your feeble little existence.
So let’s return to our premise: PARIS ATTACKS AS DISTRACTION: I maintain that unless you do one of these things—to let the Attacks on Paris change you, for real this time, and to change what you do as you move through the world, to let it change the choices you make …and then, from that, you commit to going out, on a regular basis, and doing your part, however humble, to alleviate the troubles in your own little corner of the world--unless you honestly commit to doing one of these things, as a result of the horror you have watched unfold in France, then just as will so many of the critically wounded, the news stories will die over the coming days, and your life will go on just the way it was before. And we will all go back to watching Trump bloviate and sending each other Youtubes of cute animals wearing Christmas hats. So the question is, if you truly want to respect the dead, if you want to take the advice that they surely would give you … if they could come back, like Marley’s ghost … it would be “What are you going to do today, to make the world a better place, to ease somebody’s pain? What are you going to do, to acknowledge that life is fleeting and precious?” If nothing else, you could get from this disaster a renewed resolve to change a relationship in your life that needs some love and attention, to fix a relationship that is broken . . . you become determined to fix it, because you are reminded of how short life is, how fragile it can be. Don’t you think that would be one of the most urgent and heartfelt messages of the people killed in the Attacks on Paris, if the dead could speak?
I, for one, on the anniversary of the Attacks on Paris, plan to spend a few moments every year remembering Big Ben. No, not the clock in London. A little boy. I learned about Big Ben because he was born on the same date as the attacks, but a few years before, and it would be a damnable shame if this brave little child were forgotten by the world—if his tiny life and tragic death were overshadowed by the very real tragedy that cost the lives of dozens of innocents in the City of Lights. Ben Bowen was a little boy I never knew; he earned his nickname because his courage and his smile were both so big. (http://www.bens-story.com) It was about the time that he was one year and a half old that he was diagnosed with a horrific brain tumor, aggressive and usually untreatable. He fought hard, and his parents were there for him every step of the way, as was St. Jude’s Hospital. We do not euthanize children, of course, but in Ben’s case, it meant a torturous end: His neuropathy was so bad, his body so sensitive, that his parents could not even hold him in the final weeks, and he was regurgitating his own fecal matter. Still, through it all, he found the strength to smile. And what a smile. A smile that made the clouds part. . .
We cannot measure the worth of a human life, but I know this: certainly Big Ben is no less worthy of being commemorated, just because he did not make a headline. Sometimes, nowadays we get told what to care about. The ongoing crisis, the tragedy, the sadness, the agony that is life every day for some people, we don’t do anything about, because it hasn’t been put right in our face. Because it’s not a headline. Because it hasn’t gone viral. Because the story is hidden. (That, I think, is something we must be careful about. . . some compassion requires a very circumlocutious journey. As Tolkien so pithily reminds us: “Not all who wander are lost…” ) Ben was two and a half when he was laid to rest, after having been made an honorary firefighter—which was appropriate, after all, since his father was one of the firemen rescuing people at 9-11. We could choose to honor what would surely be in the spirit and wishes of the Paris attack victims by volunteering at a local children’s hospital, or supporting a place like St. Jude’s. It would be something. There is always something you can do. More than commenting on the forums.
So, that’s about it. Seriously. Now it’s up to you. But you are STILL WORRIED ABOUT PARIS: Relax, if you can. Paris doesn’t need you. The planet is praying for Paris, supplies are pouring in, world leaders are talking, action is being taken. The best doctors are there, administering. Paris doesn’t need you. Americans are very good at stepping up when things go wrong in the world, and that’s great, but the infrastructure is already in place: as a people, we give away billions and billions, and we never shirk our duty when there is a disaster in the world. The Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders gear up for this kind of thing, and following on the heels of these organizations are literally dozens of other groups ready to lend a hand. So yes, while your prayers are welcome, what is really needed in the world is that we use this disaster as a time for personal introspection, so that when the future comes--which it will have, by the time I am done writing this sentence--YOU are not still part of the problem.
Helen Keller, never one to whine and make excuses, put it as eloquently as I have ever heard: “It is wonderful how much time good people spend fighting the Devil. If they would only expend the same amount of energy loving their fellow men, the devil would die in his own tracks of ennui.” Yes, Americans always step up at times like this, but it usually seems to manifest itself in making shrines out of teddy bears and sending large quantities of gaily festooned gift baskets filled with toiletries and chocolate and fruit and cheese. Again, not to worry. The Parisians, always resourceful ever since their part in the Resistance, have that covered. Not too far from the scene of the tragedy, they have a shrine, ready made, for remembrance and mourning the dead: It’s called Notre Dame. And as for the fruit and cheese basket, for God’s sake, people, don’t send them any American cheese. The French are depressed enough already.
By Meg Langford
I am having a rough morning. I really, really want to show people how much I really, really, really care about all those shooting victims in San Bernardino. I want so much to make a real difference in the world, so I have looked up the appropriate flag so I can cyberpaste it over my Facebook Face and everything, but it is not working out. So many questions.
Here’s the thing. I feel awful about what happened, really pitsy, you know, but I am still so very, very sad about that thing that happened in Paris too, so I face a conundrum. It is a conundrum of great magnitude: it is social, historical, aesthetic. It involves geopolitics and Photoshop. And it even speaks just a wee jot about the extent to which Facebook rules my life.
Let’s slog through it together, shall we, because I bet you are having the same problem:
OK, we’ve established that we are super upset and grief stricken about the dead folks in San Bernardino. And but we also still truly feel deeply a lot about the gens mort in Paris. But as people who almost care even more than I do have pointed out, many people died around the same time as the victims in Paris, and so what about remembering them too? Now, fixing the Facebook problem of the suicide bomber in Beirut who killed 43 people and wounded more than 240 is a pretty easy solution, because, happily for aesthetics, the Lebanese flag is basically white and red stripes. Everyone’s happy, right? You just slap a couple more red and white stripes alongside the French blue, white and red flag, and you are good to go. Conscience appeased. Dead memorialized. Easy Peasy.
But wait. Crap. Now we have this San Bernardino thing to deal with, and here’s where it gets thorny. The San Bernardino County flag is a dog’s breakfast of wackadoodle pictures; there’s mountains and fields with crops and a bunch of grapes, and a gigantic scale for weighing in, and a wagon train and a locomotive running over some citrus that was obviously thriving before the train ran over it, and there’s creatures, some holding weapons, and all of this enclosed within an arrow head. (A really big arrow head, I’m guessing.) Cripes, it’s a busy little flag. It reminds me of one of those giant ugly mosaics made by a brigade of sixth graders, you know, the ones that they have at fancy rest stops right near state borders, depicting cities and events and famous pioneers, all reminding you of which state is really the best of the adjoining states and where you should spend all those tourist dollars.
But the good news is that the actual major colors of the flag of San Bernardino (county) consists only of a white field with a couple of blue stripes and a couple of aqua stripes, not really an aqua, more of a rich azure, the same thrilling tint as Anderson Cooper’s eyes when he flashes that twinkle, or offers that endearing chuckle, like when he talked about Gerard Depardieu urinating publicly on a flight from Paris to Dublin, after he’d had all that wine and was then told he could not use the inflight toilet. (Gerard Depardieu, not Anderson Cooper.) Now, both Paris and Dublin are big drinking meccas, so you’d think fellow travelers would understand. But the story tickled Cooper into a flurry of puns. Yes, Anderson Cooper’s eyes, that’s the color in the San Bernardino flag. We are talking California, after all.
So, taking the San Bernardino flag, with its white, blue and azure, and incorporating that into our Facebook Face Gauze of blue, white, red, then more white and red, then some azure, is actually both pretty and promising.
But not so fast. The San Bernardino attack took place within the city, which has a different flag, where the symbols of farms and locomotives and wagon trains are very prominent. And since the closer you are to a tragedy, the more you care about it—for example, last week, your car not starting or that horrific slight that happened to you when you were doing your Black Friday shopping impacted you a hell of a lot more than the recent tragic and untimely death of Kitanoumi Toshimitsu, The 55th Yokozuna, am I right?—anyway, where was I, ah yes, so given my logic that the city of San Bernardino was really the heart of the tragedy (plus the seal is prominent on the county flag as well), I feel we need to address those images contained therein.
But if you are going to put those images as well as the colors onto your Facebook Face Gauze (the French flag conveniently didn’t have any images, the French being a more of a “moins est plus” kind of people), then we have to go back to the suicide bomber in Lebanon, and put in that big green tree that they have on their nation’s flag. It’s actually a Lebanon Cedar, but happily, it goes pretty well with the themes in the San Bernadino flag, cedars being fairly popular in the Golden State, especially when it comes to building closets in the Pacific Northwest, where moths are quite a problem. So the cedar tree fits just fine.
So I have my Facebook Face Gauze, which is now blue, white, red, red and white some more, Anderson Cooper azure, plus it is festooned with a mountain, wagon trains, fields of crops, a scale for weighing things, a locomotive, and a cedar tree. But it is to be embedded on a very small patch of computer screen space, as we all know, so it looks for all the world like the locomotive has just come out of that mountain tunnel and crashed into the cedar tree, blinded by the sudden bright light, or perhaps distracted by people waving from the wagon train. And people will think that the cause I am actually mourning is all of the train accidents that happen, because we need to be sad about those dead people too. And then I flash on an image from my past. I watched, one day in 2008, from my home in Canoga Park, as an Apocalypse Now of helicopters, along with a fleet of ambulances, made their way to a horrific train accident that happened in Chatsworth, California, about a mile from my house. The engineer was texting when it happened. Twenty-five people died; do we not care about them as much as those who died in acts of terrorism? Would you be less upset if your child or dearest friend or husband or wife died because some stupid driver was texting, than you would be if an act of Jihad wiped their sweet life off the face of the earth? So yes, I tell myself, let the illusion that the train has crashed into a tree symbolize all the mass transit accident victims that we mourn. (Cue The Folksmen from “A Mighty Wind” singing “Blood on the Coal”.) And, ooh, plus, the wagon train on both San Bernadino flags can symbolize all the fine people we lost settling this great country of ours. And the mountains on the SB flag? That can be where the Indians that we are going to slaughter are attempting to hide; we must also remember them while we are Manifesting our Destiny. And the fields of unpicked produce can represent the plight of illegal undocumented alien immigrants who are overworked and underpaid.
But wait. My friends who care just about as much as I do, but not quite as deeply, remind me that Paris, Beirut, and San Bernadino weren’t the only places where there have very recently been massive waves of death and destruction. You can’t bring up Middle East turmoil without thinking of Syria. A lot of death in Syria. A lot of lives to mourn. And, my friends dryly inform me, (and damn if there isn’t a tinge of amusement on their face) that Syria actually has two, yes TWO flags, WHAT?!, which apparently has to do with some kind of petty infighting going on there. (And by the way why does nobody’s flag say “Can’t We All Just Get Along”, what would that be in Latin?) Anyway, something about “de jure” governments, which I thought was a menu item, but continuing on, the two flags of Syria are black, white, and red, and black, white, and green—and, excuse me, I thought these were the colors of the Italian flag, that the Italians had dibs—but the Syrian flagS have additions, one with some red stars, and one with some green stars, which is stupid to me, since stars are supposed to be white, or maybe yellow, and twinkle. (Note to self: create Old Glory with LED flashing star lights, sell on eBay next Fourth of July, big buck$$$.)
Where was I? Ah yes. So if I add these colors to the blue, white, red, red some more, white some more, more blue, more white, azure, and yellow (the background of the San Bernadino city flag), now I add not only more red, but green and black. Shew. It’s not only ugly, it looks for all the world like those test bars they used to use when there was a big crisis, and then the Emergency Broadcast System would come on, but some stations used to leave the test bars on their channel all night after my bedtime as a child, back when TV had occasional end points or pauses. So now, I worry, people will see all these stripes on my Facebook page and think I AM THE ONE having a tragic emergency, or EVEN WORSE (gasp!) that my Facebook page is going off the air.
On the more interesting column, though, is the fact that the flag of Beirut, the city where that actual horrible suicide bombing which took 43 souls actually took place, has a ship floating on the water, on its flag. And I’m guessing that if Zuckerberg weren’t busy changing diapers right now, he’d be addressing this entire imbroglio with more thoroughness than he has, and allow us the option to put the flag of the city where a tragedy took place, instead of whole countries, which have many parts, and people caring in varying greater and lesser degrees. So I take the flag of Beirut, and I add the sailing ship and images of what appear to be rather choppy seas, grab your Dramamine … and Huzzah!, what is eerie is that if you look at the flag of Paris, IT ALSO has a ship on even choppier waters, Normans or something, I am told, which is stupid because Paris is landlocked, but whatever—I would have chosen a baguette crossed with a paintbrush, or something. But it’s rude to criticize when people are in mourning.
So I put the boats with the choppy water on my Facebook Face Gauze, and they are bumping up around the train tracks and the wagon train, which was supposed to be going through the desert, but now there are waves around the locomotive. So instantly, you get this image—ocean levels rising. Climate change. BANG! I got that covered. This is good. This is fabulous! Now people know I care about the planet, on top of all my other causes. I really, really care.
“But what about the Egyptians” my friends who are almost as worried about the world as I am ask. “Well, what about Egypt” I say, thinking about the pyramids and crystal and energies and spiritual things. And then they explain about a coup d'état and terrorism and something about detaining journalists—but I wasn’t really listening, I was looking at the eagle on the Egyptian flag. Pretty bird. Good on my Gauze.
But here’s the weird thing: just when my friends interrupted me with that stuff about Egypt, I was thinking about how the flag used in the Paris attacks was actually the flag of France, so maybe I should use the flag of the state of California for the San Bernadino thing, California being pretty close to an actual country, I figure. And that flag, of course, features a big bear on it. And bears, as people who care about things such as myself know, are endangered. Bears. Endangered. Eagle, endangered. I post them on my Facebook Face Gauze, the bear on the mountain (with the invisible endangered Indians) and the Eagle in the sky, on that azure blue that is the color of Anderson Cooper’s eyes.
I am feeling pretty damn good about myself, if I may say so. Climate Change. Species on the Verge of Extinction. Violence All Over the World. (Hey, the Persian flag has a lion on it, so if I add that, I got Cecil covered.) Endangered CNN Hosts. If I knew of a flag that had a tent on it, I would throw that on there, for the homeless. Maybe if I look at flags of third world countries. Or maybe the Jungle, that refugee camp at Calais, the one with the disco and bicycle repair shop and a theater, will get around to hoisting an official flag with a pup tent and a griffon or something, then people can know I care about that too.
For a fleeting moment, I think of my Buddhist friend, Chris. Every time you tell him about some tragedy in the world, a plane crash or a terrorist attack, he just smiles patronizingly and reminds you that millions are suffering every day, all over the world, dying of starvation and dysentery and bug bites, and then he gives a lengthy speech about how all pain comes from attachment, and ends with how none of us should eat meat or wear leather. Not even fun fur or Pleather, lest it seem like tacit approval. Chris doesn’t get invited places very much. But his point is well taken. And for another fleeting moment (I admit, I haven’t much of an attention span these days), I think of the behind-the-scenes drama at the Academy Awards, the annual dilemma that rages about what ribbon-pin one ought to wear this particular year: Yellow for troops? Pink for breast cancer? Rainbow for gays? Denzel wore purple one time, for urban violence. And some stars actually ask this vaguely reasonable, just, and fair question: if I don’t wear all the ribbons, does this mean I don’t care about all the causes? And if I wear no ribbons, does this mean I am an apathetic, self-absorbed turd? This whole matter irks me a great deal, in regards to my big morning project, because I care deeply, for example, about breast cancer, but as far as my very politically correct Facebook Face Gauze goes, I don’t believe that there is a national flag with tits on it.
ASIDE: In regards to San Bernardino, I could just plow forth and do what I did to honor the victims of the Paris attacks: I examined my life, listened to the spirits of the dead, and did what they told me to do … fixed something in my corner of the world. I started working on a broken relationship with a loved one, and asked to have my Christmas gifts be given to charity in my name. (Specifically, I think an African family will be getting a goat.)
But “As Facebook Goes, So Goes the World” (“Sicut Vadit Facebookum, Ita Mouetur Mundus”), so I return to finishing my massive project. I study it.
I got Paris, Beirut, San Bernadino, Syria, Egypt, and since there is pretty much violence all over the Middle East that we can’t seem to do a damn thing about (can you say “Lawrence of Arabia”), I figure I will just throw a camel and an oil derrick and maybe an oasis pond filled with Blackwater in to represent all of those sand dunes filled with squabbling tribes, and call it a day. Yeah, I know, it’s now an overwhelming little Facebook Face Gauze, a long way from the simple Paris tri-colors. (By the way, how come nobody has pointed out that this blue white and red Facebook Face Gauze looks a hell of a lot like a Coco Chanel-style hajib?) Oh, but not my Facebook Face Gauze: as I gaze at it admiringly, I realize that nobody else will have all this, it makes me different and special and unique, like the superior sort of person who would not have just indulged in those repetitive redundant adjectives that make the reader have to absorb the same point over and over and over again.
Now that my work here is done, I must go have a breakfast of croissant, spread with hummus and avocado, chased down by a half-caf fat-free soy latté Turkish Coffee, avec a Cabernet Sauvignon chaser. Sounds ghastly I know, but dammit, my heart is filled with love for mankind, what can I do?
POST SCRIPT: Oh yeah, forgot. I did promise you Fifteen Things You Can Do to Change the World:
Spoiler Alert: You won’t believe item number 13!!!!!!!
Pickford Studios acknowledges that we have slowed the pace on our blogging. That fact saddens us. It seems that we have been almost completely banned from both Facebook, and Discus. And this has virtually destroyed our ability to get the word out. We have thus far been committed to being ad-free, and we cannot afford an advertising budget. We have relied on getting the word out by commenting on relevant stories that appear on Facebook--via pages as varied as The New York Times, PINAC, and Boing Boing. It is a myth that Zuckerberg only censors alt-right. We believe that what the Facebook software frequently censors is any comment with a link that might take someone (God forbid) away from Facebook. (And should you decide to test it, be aware that it doesn’t happen the first time you include a link. Only if you do it over time--however judiciously--do you get ghost banned.) This is particularly troubling as many of the major news outlets no longer offer the opportunity to comment on their dot.coms. Only on their Facebook page. But the Z Man has other ideas. Ask yourself--when you read the comments on a story that shows up on Facebook, are those comments replete with scintillating links that back up assertions and opinions--as one might expect from any good debater, scholar, teacher, student, academic, politician, author, activist, or citizen? Or does the comment thread consist of just a series of brief, often ignorant, and typically smarmy remarks? Now ask yourself another question: do you really think that is reflection of the world writ large? So much repetitive cruelty, snark, and attack-oriented rhetoric? Or are the smart comments, with their proofs and evidence, disturbingly absent? We will be writing a longform blog on the subject of Mark Zuckerberg’s penchant for ghost-banning. It is sad that such a powerful man with such potential has become such a virulent censor of free speech. So let us apologize once again for the lack of constant blog posts. We are just sad, and exhausted. And censored. We are demoralized.
By Eve Ryman
Gaia wakes to protect her children whenever the world throws a tantrum, or is otherwise under attack. Scientists reject the concept of a planetwide consciousness, but scientists require replication and corroboration about both the proofs and the methods employed. In a practical world, this is useful. But Gaia is too old, and too wise, to need acceptance or provide evidence. She first awoke during the attack of the evil embodied in the proto-planet Theia, in the aftermath of the great collision which formed the moon and remade the planet. She has been guiding and protecting life on Earth ever since. For four billion years she has guided and protected life on our planet in how to survive, when to evolve, and where and when to move. If humans were not so arrogant, if we could be still as we once could, and listen as we once did, she would lovingly guide and protect us as well. But in our lust for acquisition, we have become a threat, and she speaks to us no more. –From the Tribal Bibal, Chapter 17 zedo, written in the thirty-third year A.C.
It started simply enough. But simply because it was simple, do not think that it was not magnificent. In its way. Although scientists looking back on the matter would see it as the first great harbinger of doom, nearly the entire population of the planet agreed upon this much: it was a breathtaking thing to watch.
(Until, of course, the world got bored, as the world always does, and it turned its collective attention to newer, shinier distractions.)
But when I say it happened simply enough, what I mean is that it did not shock the first witnesses. For when the Great Migration began, it happened in places like Africa, Laos, Haiti, Amazonia, Louisiana—places where the strange is not so strange. Places where animists live, and the idea of great trees uprooting themselves and starting a journey north does not seem all that fantastical. The animists knew, after all, as surely as they knew that the sun would rise in the east, that trees and shrubs and flowers all had spirits, lively and capricious souls, and for these organisms to uproot themselves and move to a different place seemed unusual, perhaps … but not without explanation. Not beyond the realm of credulity. And if these assorted natives saw their rain forests and fields of crops just tear their roots from the ground one vigorous morning, those same peoples also took comfort in the fact that certainly some new species of tree or grain or fruit would migrate to spaces from whence the others had departed.
The entire matter was quite thoroughly documented on film and in some very stunning photographs, so we will recount it rather succinctly for you here, since the purpose of the information in this pod is just to inform people who have somehow forgotten that amazing phenomenon, or who are very young, and have stumbled upon the information in this pod (or vial, as some of you like to call it), and are learning about the Great Migration for the first time.
The Great Migration was, of course, prompted by the Great Change in the Climate.
What so many pompous humans had been denying for decades, the trees knew deep in their souls, and they could feel it from the tips of their roots to the pith of their ringed cores. If they were to survive—not just as an individual tree, but as a species of tree—they must do what they had so very rarely done (and which had never before been witnessed by the humans): they must migrate. And just as it was true for the trees, so it was true for the crops, for the shrubs and bushes, and the flowers of the fields.
The first tree on record to rip its roots out of the ground was a Cashapona; scientific name: “socratea exorrhiza”. We know this because as very primitive as certain dark corners of the world still may have been in the early years of the Twenty-Second Century, it is nonetheless safe to say that there was hardly a primitive in the world that did not own some inexpensive cellphone with a camera on it, and there was nary a tribe that could not point you to their nearest cellphone tower, which they could use to cackle at ancient reruns of Hogan’s Heroes or F Troop or Baywatch, or the latest tele-novella. It was a curious time on the planet: fiercely protective of their ancient ways and rituals, even these centuries-old peoples could not resist a peek at American television.
And so that is how it happened that a child from an obscure tribe in the Amazonian rainforest happened to record the very beginning of the Great Migration. The little boy was minding his own business, gathering prickly fruits for breakfast, when he heard a great groan above him. He stared up and saw what he knew, he just knew, to be a face forming on the trunk of the old tree, under which he had spent so many happy hours playing. It was a full set of almost human features. A mouth, and nose, and eyes were all unmistakably emerging from the bark and moss. With a grimace and a grunt, the great tree heaved from its roots to the very tips of its newest branches. Its trunk shivered, and then, there was a great rumbling. The little boy jumped back, too young to be afraid of the unknown, and watched in wonder as the great tree, with what was clearly an audible cry of pain and gumption, lifted its largest root out of the ground—and then another, and another. And when it put the root back down on the ground, it was a foot away from where it had started. Millions of tiny beings, who had made their lives on and in and around that tree, were startled and terrified—they clearly had planned to live out all their days (or in some cases, hours)—on that one spot. But some of the braver and wiser ones, wee though they were, had the courage to go with that massive moving tree, as it edged its way north.
As it would happen, a man from Texas who was illegally trapping endangered macaws to resell stateside also witnessed the amazing ripping of the roots, and the beginning of the tree’s journey north, so he was the one who was in a better position to get it uploaded and push it to viral. And he got all the credit for it. He also got busted for the illegal bird poaching, so there was that bit of justice.
After that first tree … it was astonishing thing to watch. Although, as history well knows, the entire Great Migration was a massive harbinger of doom.
And now here follows a few verbal snapshots from around the planet: (Although, to whomever is reading this, if you can make your way to a repository of video images, that is the most exhilarating way to relive it. Although we all know that since the Catastrophe, such a thing is easier said than done.)
When the first tree, that grand Cashapona, lifted its roots from the ground, causing itself no small bit of agony, it was an inspiration to the other trees around it. They could all feel the rainforest getting warmer, almost by the hour. Every living thing felt the soundless urgings of ancient Gaia. Humans disregarded them, if they felt them at all, and many less developed plants and animals simply felt the thought … follow. They had been a proud lot, this collection of trees, feeling that they had evolved themselves to be able to withstand the steamy heat of these tropical climes, but it was getting a bit warm, even for them. And drier. They might have been able to stand the higher temperatures, but their bodies thirsted for those beautiful daily deluges of rain, and the storms were dwindling. Fewer. Lighter. It felt like a betrayal.
So when that oldest and wisest of the Socratea began thrusting its roots forward in a jumble of treely steps—first awkward, then with an increasingly mesmerizing waltzing sort of movement, the other trees followed suit. It seemed suicidal to them at first, to rip their roots, elaborate systems that it had taken them a lifetime to establish, and to pull them up from the depths of Mama Earth onto the mushy floor of the rainforest, but after a few moments, it felt rather fine. By nightfall, they had walked several miles. Within a few weeks, they had made their way up through Central America, across the Isthmus, and settled themselves right across the Rio Grande, showing no sympathy or human manners when they edged out and knocked over the last of the dusty and drying cacti.
But by the time they had gotten there, the Great Migration was going on all over the planet, and Canadians (just to name one happily surprised populus) watched in delight through high powered binoculars as millions of corn plantings hoisted their roots high—lifting themselves up by their bootstraps, as one idealistic preacher would have put it—and made their way from the America’s heartland … from Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Nebraska … to the northernmost border of the United States. Astonished and delighted border patrol guards stood back in childlike wonder as the armies of corn made their way into places with names whose lilting syllables and Aboriginal hearkenings pleased the corn when it fell on their collective ears—exotic locations with names like Winnipeg and Wetaskiwin, Saskatoon and Saskatchewan, Madawaska and Merigomish and Mushaboom. And when the air felt right and the dew kissed their leaves, they stopped, settled down, and let their roots wriggle their way deep into the old dirt that was their new home.
And, lest we forget to mention it, with the forests, and the fields, and with every kind of migration of flora, so also moved the ecosystem with them. All of the heartbeats, the giant and the wee, the mammalian and the reptilian and the insect, those pulses that thrust forward the lives of the ugly critters and the regal creatures, they all shivered and skipped at first, terrified of this new stark choice thrust without warning into their petite existences. But they realized almost instantaneously that this tree, this cornstalk, this snapdragon that was their dinner, their diner, their shelter, the shield, their camouflage, their universe, their home sweet home, their comfort and joy--if the ecosystemites did not follow this flora, this fauna would soon be D.O.A. And so, with the migration of the plants, came the migration of the creatures as well--the great drumming thrum of life, taking matters into their own hands (paws, claws, hooves, wings, tentacles, talons), and hoping that they might find some way to circumvent the folly of humankind.
And speaking of the folly of humankind.
Social media, experiencing a resurgence after the Great Catastrophe (not to be confused by the historically ignorant with the Great Migration), was fat with people telling their personal stories of how the Great Migration had impacted them in all manner of delightful ways.
Bob and Joy Henderson, of McMurdo Station, West Antarctica, became famous overnight, when several dozen apple trees of an astonishing variety marched onto their acreage, planted their roots, and continued offering low hanging fruit as though nothing had ever happened.
And the high-rise apartment complexes of Scandinavia and Greenland found themselves suddenly surrounded by glorious rhododendron plants in all the popular colors—white and red and pink and orange and yellow—and thanks to the radiation still lingering in the air, some places were graced with even more mind-bending colors—neon purple, and electric blue, and one particularly unique bloom that pulsed through a rainbow of different colors, if you watched over the course of several hours. It was wonderful. Some vines rich with buds would even slither into your house as you slept, if you left the door open a sliver.
The Raskolnikov family, of Siberia, for example, provided a wonderful lengthy video of the butterfly garden that had ingratiated itself into their front yard almost overnight, so drawn were the Phlox and Aster and Lantanas and Verbena and Zinnias to this new, temperate terrain. What a delightful change it was from the deserts of Virginia and Tennessee, where the death of their kind had seemed all but inevitable … before the inspiring migration of the trees, which had given courage to so many genera and species that were so much tinier and more timid. The Raskolnikov son, a whiz with creating functional video equipment from the detritus found after the Great Catastrophe, had even been able to capture it on video as the plants migrated in during the night, and sank their delicate roots into the yielding and anxious soil. The whole world watched it in speed motion photography, and there was much huzzah all around.
And where there was massive bodies of water, now gorgeously green (from the neon lime bursts of new algae strains), or Jacques Cousteau aqua (erroneously adjectivilized, since this new hypnotic blue-green shading was the result of radiation absorption--where were we? Ah yes--when the grand forests and field crops and phalanxes of flowers arrived at some large body of water, they were more often than not met by some cargo ship or ferry boat or barge or some similar sailing vessel, and always, the campesinos on show and merchant marines aboard standing, staring, in shock and awe, at the sight before them. They seemed to know that the plants knew so much more than they did. That they were on some great, grand, global mission. And so they helped the plant kingdom in its great relocation. Some crossed themselves, some said a prayer. For what, they were not sure…
And then, of course, there were the legions of plants that simply crossed great and grand bodies of water on the bridges of plastic trash, here and there, joining continents and peoples….
And if the Great Migration meant that millions of people in less fortunate places on the planet were now starving to death in agony, suffering from the overnight loss of crops from which they had eked out the barest of sustenances, well that was all the way around the world; people could only focus on the delight of their new gardens, the fat fruit trees, and the cotillion of bugs and butterflies and small delightful varmints that had escorted the migrants. It was wonderful. And if the Great Migration, caused by the Great Climate Change, had caused inexplicable suffering somewhere else, well that had always been the way of the world. It didn’t mean that one shouldn’t enjoy one’s morning bowl of strawberries, while watching the sun rise over the South Pole.
At the end of the day—or, more literally, at the end of the Migration—the world writ large agreed that it had all been a delightful novelty, a panoramic journey of nature into new lands where vegetation of all kinds sought new homes. Stories were told about it, and scientists all over the globe responded as you would expect—in accordance with whomever it might be that was paying their salary. New arboretums, designed to show off to best advantage a region’s fine new collection of greenery, sprang up nearly overnight, and tourists flocked in to gawk. These massive greenhouses were financed by the new villages and hamlets, which themselves had been springing up here and there, after the Great Catastrophe. And the storehouses of knowledge, located strategically around the globe, expanded their collection to include stories and theories and the movement of millions of plants across the planet, and all by the power of their own root systems initiating a grand and astonishing walkabout. All by the sheer force of animist will. Of the organic drive to survive.
Oh, there were those who warned that this magnificent passage of the trees was a terrifying thing, a sign of times ahead … so bleak and hot, so dry and deadly, that life as we know it would end forever.
But those people were largely perceived as party-poopers, grim gusses, raining on everybody’s parade.
“Oh”, they thought wryly to themselves, “Oh, that we had the power to do just that.”
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