Of Slugs, Stars, and Conversation

Of Slugs, Stars, and Conversation

By Blaney Pridgen

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.

We need clean air, clean water, and healthy food to survive.  We need more than that to creatively flourish.  We also need a sense of that which is imminent, that which is transcendent, and community.  These second three are as important as the first, if we are to fully realize the depth of being fully human.  

Imminent things are that which is near or that which is about to happen.  We need close experience of our surroundings, that which is all around us, and that which is expected to happen.  We need to be aware of what our senses tell us, what our minds discern, and what is happening “right in front of our noses”.  We might better understand imminence in everyday expressions which are its opposite.  When we say someone has their “head buried in the sand,” we are saying they are avoiding imminent experience.  We might mean something similar when we say, “he is living in an ivory tower.”  We need to get our heads out of the sand, come down from our ivory towers, and pay attention.  Another saying that comes to mind is “take the time to small the roses.”  Whenever someone prefaces what they are about to say with the word “look,” they are pleading for our sense to discern what they believe is imminent.  Good counselors help their clients see and hear what is going on in their lives.  

Transcendent things are that which go beyond the limits of human knowledge.  We need a sense of that too.  Religious people need the realization that their God is God, and they are not.  Some folks say that they are spiritual but not religious.  They too need to realize that spiritual disciplines and highly subjective experiences help us sense the mystery of life but ultimately cannot control it.  Transcendence is the surrender of imminent claims to that or who we cannot control and ultimately know.  Often, we need to let go of what we are trying to explain, define, and control.  We need to relax our need to know and surrender to the mystery.  Sensitive parents of grown children know a little about this.  When they step back from their findings, astrophysicists know more about this.  The best theologians, preachers, priests, and shamans open up the transcendent for most of us, who are stuck with both feet on the ground and nothing more than mere common sense.  

A sense of that which is imminent and a sense of that which is transcendent are equal human needs.  Call them the beautiful and sublime, the yin and the yang or the knowing and not knowing, but we need them both and neither is more important than the other.  But what about that third, community?  I believe that we humans too often forget that we are herd animals like bison and pack animals like wolves.  We exist and survive together not apart.  We need each other and we need to get along.  That’s what the Golden Rule is all about, which I paraphrase as “be kind to the bums, because you are somebody’s bum too.”  We also need each other in community in order to share what we believe is imminent or transcendent.  In community we can test our experiences and our beliefs.  Responding to our fellows, we gain knowledge that would otherwise be unattainable.  And sometimes we just need help to deal with the imminent and the transcendent matters of our lives.  

I am remembering two nights.  One night my wife and I enjoyed watching two slugs mating on the brick wall of our carport.  They probably had been the culprits who had eaten our plants nearby, but that did not matter so much.  Slugs can be hideous, but they are also wonderful in their markings, movements, and sexuality.  Look up slugs on YouTube.  Another night, camping in the Blue Ridge, we shared a glass of wine as we observed the stars from a clearing.  The sky was not spoiled by the ambient lights of humans.  We could make out the Milky Way of which our tiny planet is an invisible orb from who-knows-what living light years away from us and our slugs.  Both nights, my wife and I formed a small community among stars and slugs.  Four eyes are better than two.  The second night our wonder was briefly disturbed by distant car lights.  That was fine. We all have to live together as we share our experiences of the imminent and the transcendent.