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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Campus animals

The local Spring Creek Project of Oregon State University invited people to write essays about the many life forms that inhabit the campus. People submitted lovely pieces on ants and birds and spiders, drawing their eyes to the smallest among us. I went the other way.

Homo sapiens on Campus

H. sapiens is the largest, most numerous, and the least present of all of the mammals on campus.  This species blindly scurries between buildings, between classes, between meetings, oblivious not only to the rest of the living, breathing, moving, growing, writhing, dying organisms all around it, but even to the members of its own species jostling along in streams of unconsciousness, clutching coffee cups whose contents bring no awakening, glassy eyes focused crystal screens, seeing and hearing only internal, custom-created isolated little worlds.  It has created a parallel external world as well, one with little room for its fellow organisms. 

But those other creatures are more at home in our home than we, spiders aware of the texture of brick, swallows soaring in mathematical arcs on the thermals rising from a parking lot, squirrels and grosbeaks well-versed in the uses of exotic tree species with thick bark and plentiful seeds.

What would it take, to bring awareness back to our species?  Should we genetically engineer saber-toothed tigers to stalk unwary students from the rhododendron thickets, require all administrators to chant the names of at least thirty species of beetle and bacteria, have faculty begin classes with intonations of the eight parts of non-human speech?

Or take the lead from the chickadees, and simply begin using contact calls as we move through our days, asking, “Are you ok?”

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