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For Robert Wright
Sometimes I catch myself, my tongue dry from the gummy prune and lick of my ego, hissing at predators that no longer exist. A scrappy, dogged species, we’ve crawled to the top, shoveling our genes into the next generation, made possible day after day by a grand illusion, (that the self is closer to wood than wave). Still smitten with the fiction of a singular self, still on fire with fight or flight, our brains, itchy nests of thought huddling high above the trunks of our bodies. That bulky mind evolution left us, the thuggish one, designed for hunter gatherers, all gunshot and adrenalin? The Buddha says we don’t have to buy all of its thoughts, instead we can watch them, note their magnetic pull, the suck of their maddening orbits, say to them gently, how interesting, there now, it’s time to let you go.
So now that we’ve won and our planet bleeds at our feet, isn’t it time for the Darwinocene to end? Surely we’ve noticed how quickly happiness evaporates under the current regime? It’s a subtle thing, meditation, a hard sell, a rebellion against natural selection, but a tool no less game changing than the wheel.
How exhausting it is, even though survival’s a given, our belly full and war a distant grumble, our instincts misfiring like bulky canons, the last grand fireworks of a forager’s DNA. Still, no one loves humans more than I do. How beautiful we are, at night calling to each other like owls, our loneliness barely masked, barely voweled into sound, the past calling to us like hungry ghosts, the future a sterile space we have yet to find cozy, sweeping from limb to limb of stiff old Gods we nest in a while, then fly off.
Despite this liminal time, when oceans drag villages into their distended bellies, we gather and feed the sick, the lost, we laugh and joke. Deep inside our skulls, the shocks of brilliance startling over and over, like a flock of birds that never rests and all night, our imagination pulsing like fireflies in the dark. And even though we’ve forgotten we’re miracles, who knows who’s out there watching, saying, oh, my…Haven’t you noticed, even your longing is so terribly beautiful?
Adrie Kusserow is a cultural anthropologist who works with Sudanese refugees in trying to build schools in war-worn South Sudan. Currently an associate professor of Cultural Anthropology at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, Kusserow earned her PhD in Social Anthropology from Harvard University. She is the author of two collections of poetry, both published by BOA Editions, Hunting Down the Monk (2002), and Refuge (2013).
Copyright 2019 Adrie Kusserow