Encounter At Isla Uvita: Part Three

And with that our information about the dinosaurs at Isla Uvita ends. That does not mean our interest in them ends, though. After all, it is decades before the dinosaurs again enter the historical record. It is natural to ask why this is the case. We know from the accounts that we have read that the dinosaurs themselves were sensitive creatures but were by no means aggressive or destructive, and yet someone wanted knowledge of them to disappear. So far as we know, the writer of the only information that we possess of them from a first-hand source is the only person who bonded with them at this time, and this bonding would have fateful consequences for both the dinosaurs and for that person’s family in later generations. That is, however, a story for another time. What is clear, though, is that although the dinosaurs appeared to prosper on that island, they were not allowed to leave the island at all nor did they ever become widely known public knowledge. That is probably for the best.

Imagine, if you will, that you are a person in the first half of the 21st century, and you are dealing with the political instability of the time. Think of how much more you would fear for your safety if you were worried about dinosaurs that were human-sized with sharp claws and teeth and the ability to shut down all electronics around them when they were anxious. This is probably not something that most people would find very comfortable, and it is precisely because of this that even with a relatively obscure dinosaur species being brought back to life that there was no great hurry to try to get them around other human beings. The tests of bringing people around them were a success in that the nature of the dinosaurs was likely better understood by the scientists researching them, but at the same time, it was a failure in that there were no plans to create a sort of Jurassic Park for them because of the fears that it would turn out exactly like the movies, with intelligent creatures being upset about the way that they were thought of by arrogant and unfriendly human beings, reacting to being seriously outnumbered with the tools in their arsenal, which would only make people fear and hate them all the more.

And when the writer we have already seen returned to thinking about these creatures, it was the mutual environment of fear that he had in mind. This is a sample of his later reflections on the matter, called: “We Are Not Such Monsters After All:”

“It was not until my thirties when I realized that I was a being that others feared. This may seem to be a rather late observation to make for one who prides himself on his capacity for observation, but it was not until I was well into adulthood before I recognized that other people and other creatures in general could look at me as someone to fear. I have never particularly viewed myself as a particularly predatory or fearsome sort of being myself. To be sure, I am omnivorous and have long had what could be termed as a feeling of predator love for those creatures who I saw as being fit for food. But even in the case of chickens and cows and fish and other animals that I saw as being tasty, I have long been aware of the fact that they had some level of an emotional life. And if I have not had many pets myself of that nature, I have had friends who did, and I was able to see their pets and the love that they had for their pets and the awareness of the sensitivity that those animals had to me and to my intense curiosity about the way of others. Still, it was not until I had been an adult for more than a decade before I saw the sort of fear that I could cause in others. And it happened all at once over the course of a few short but painful years that I realized the struggle that one has in trying to prove or convince others that one is not a threatening being.

But it is comforting to know that this is not something that I have had to deal with alone. I have seen in the eyes of other beings, and not only human beings, the same longing to be seen as friendly beings and struggling with being viewed as monstrous. It is hard to prove innocence. In general it is very difficult to prove a negative, so much so that even in mathematical expressions this is usually done through proof by contradiction, and that is by no means an easy thing to do when one is dealing with human beings who can contradiction themselves and who can contain multiple complex attitudes, as opposed to mathematical proofs of a much simpler nature. It is practically impossible to prove innocence. What is even more unpleasant is that the recognition that one would need to prove or demonstrate one’s innocence is itself seen as a sign of guilt, which places one in a double bind where any action one takes to defend oneself and one’s reputation is viewed as being proof of guilt rather than proof of innocence, under the cynical argument that the recognition that one needs to improve one’s image suggests that there is something really wrong, or that there is no smoke without a fire, or something else equally incorrect of that nature.

Although it is frustrating to know that this problem is a nearly insoluble one, at least given the limited capacity of people to recognize the truth in light of our biases and explanatory filters, it is at least somewhat comforting to know that this is not a problem that I face alone. It is always easier to understand a problem when you realize that it is a wider problem that has something of the nature of humanity or of intelligence wrapped up in it rather than being a personal problem that one struggles with because of who one is. For example, it might be that the impossibility of proving innocence relates to the gulf between that which we know about ourselves and that which we can know about others. To the extent that we find it difficult to impossible to trust our reading of other people because we know that others want to present themselves in a particular way, we find it difficult to trust anything other than our own suspicions about others.

And we live in a world where there are hunters and predators and where people want to prey on us. It is not unreasonable to be concerned about such matters. What is unreasonable is that our concern about such things should be so disconnected with what other people are able to communicate to us. What we would need in order to break the impasse that we face in communications in the asymmetry between that which we would want others to know about ourselves and that which we are able to communicate effectively to others is some means of bypassing the filter by which we get so much misinformation from others that we mistrust. We have to learn how to read others somehow and to gather that they are trustworthy beings who respond to us out of anxiety and concern and not out of hostility, and who we can get along with despite our mutual anxiety, by realizing what we bring to the interaction and what it is that we want to get out of it–namely some sort of reassurance in the goodness of the beings that we are with. And we can only get that by having a sense of others as beings and in feeling the sort of love that they have through something like their electrical field and through a recognition of their energy, rather than from words which can be misunderstood, misheard, or falsely spoken.

I have read books that encouraged the reader to read others like a book, by taking advantage of the little movements that people make involuntarily, as a way of demonstrating that they are trustworthy. But even with this there is always at least some hint or possibility that we could get things wrong. Let us assume that we are dealing with someone who sends us signals that there is some sort of disconnect between what they say and what they mean. We can gather that they feel nervous. But that is not nearly enough to understand their intentions. They may be nervous because they are afraid of us and of making the wrong impression. And being afraid of making a wrong impression is, unless one is dealing with an unusually kind person, a sure way to make a bad impression because our energy will be off, it will be too nervous, too high-strung, too high-pitched. People often think the worst of those who “try too hard” rather than reflecting upon the various reasons why people do these things–and not only people. How do we bypass this, though, so that we are able to ponder the various reasons that lead people to act and to come to correct judgments about whether people are shy or proud, timid or predatory. After all, it is striking that such wildly divergent attitudes would lead to the same sort of body language that could be read based upon our own understanding of others, and it suggests that most of us do not read others nearly careful enough.

How is it that we can get better at this task? In some ways, self-knowledge must precede our knowledge of others. We can, with a certain degree of practice, be able to distinguish between shyness and timidity that leads people to want to please, which is a tendency that should by no means be discouraged or hindered, and the sort of untrustworthiness that comes from those who are trying to lead us down a false path. Distinguishing between those two is among the most important tasks we have as beings if we want to best ensure our safety and well-being, And it is not a task that humanity has alone, but rather a task that we share with other life as well. And it is not only human beings that seek intuitive means of knowing whether or not they are safe to be themselves. I remember a rescue dog that my grandparents had as a pet late in their lives, which we called Muffin, a brown mutt who we first thought was a bassengi because it was so quiet, but who we later found out had been beaten for barking and, once knowing that it was safe to bark to her heart’s content, was a very observant dog that would bark at anyone entering my grandparents’ yard or driving or walking or riding horseback along the street. If a mutt can be smart enough to know these things, we can do no worse than they.”

And this is a good place to leave things. The writer had understood properly that beings like himself wanted to make a good impression and were unlikely to do so because they were misunderstood, and this ability to have empathy with other creatures is precisely that marked him as a rare friend of the dinosaurs that he had met that September day in an island off of the coast of Costa Rica. And apparently few other people were able to see or feel what he did, and so they were unable to bond with beings that they scarce knew existed, or for those who had met them, they could not get over their fear and worry and mistrust of beings not so much unlike themselves filled with a great deal of anxiety as well. It is all too common, after all, in this life, that we should be surrounded by beings whose potential to hurt us we fear, and who fear us in turn, but without being able to rise above the fear to some sort of friendly mutual understanding.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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