Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Sharing Gene

I was 17-years old when I first read Walden. Up to that point, my experience with the natural world was mostly limited to wandering around the 200-acre park a block from my house. I never camped with my family, joined the Boy Scouts or went to summer camp. Yet still, helped along by Thoreau’s thoughts and experience, I felt like the closest thing to God I would know would not come from Bible study, hymns in church or stained-glass pieces hung indoors, but from the living, breathing world of plants and animals and bubbling brooks and stars at night.

And so at that world-opening age, I took a walk in the woods one day and experienced a taste of that moment when all the elements joined together to make a present moment filled to the brim with beauty and shimmering presence. As Thoreau suggested, it was a moment of grace that came from an intentional Solitude, undistracted by the chit and chat of the social nexus. But what struck me was that the moment that grace appeared, my first impulse was to share it with someone. That manifested in a mere smile to a passing hiker, but it was the gesture that completed it all. It was only half real until communicated in one form or another to a fellow human being.

I imagine that is what prompted Thoreau to write about his Solitude, to put himself in company with a community of people who he would never meet, but hovered over his shoulder. It’s the same impulse the musician aims for when all the solitary practice becomes public in performance, the same the artist feels when the painting is finally hung in the gallery, the same deep desire that animates this blog. We are here not only to experience our corner of the world’s marvels, but to show it and share it with others.

And so this morning, I ambled along the street to the local tienda on the last day of our Nicaragua adventure and stumbled on the frogs mentioned yesterday in a puddle of water singing the most remarkable electronic-sounding rhythms I have ever heard, like a video arcade gone wild. In these days of Youtube, itself a tribute to the power of our “sharing gene,” the remarkable has become almost commonplace—my bookmarks of “must see’s!” is stretching into three digits! But these frogs were close to the top of my list.

So while part of me stood dumbfounded by the privilege of witnessing this, that other part immediately thought, “Damn!! I don’t have my camera!!!” So I walked the extra hundred yards to the store where the kids were gathered, told them to follow me back and had the kids with cameras poised to go. All of this took three minutes. But when I returned, the frogs were silent. Still visible, but refusing to sing. Aaaargh!!! For want of my camera, the kingdom of shared astonishment was lost. I witnessed the moment, but missed the moment to document and show the world. And because of that, it felt less than a complete moment.

Friends, those frogs are out there and I will do all in my power to search out the documentation and share it with you. (Starting with finding out their name—our host didn’t have it on the tip of his tongue.) But we left an hour later, so it won’t find its way on my camera.

Meanwhile, this blog is incomplete until you share it with a friend. ; - )

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