Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More




Snake V

Alston Park, Napa Valley, California, USA

June 3, 2019



"In the animal kingdom, the rule is eat or be eaten; in the human kingdom, define or be defined." ... Thomas Szasz

This essay, Snake V, is the fifth in the quintology Snake: It was written at the same time as Thank You For Playing.



Photography by Laurence Platt

Alston Park, Napa Valley, California, USA

4:29pm Monday June 3, 2019
Snake throttling hawk


While on an evening hike recently in the west Mayacamas  hills of the Napa Valley, the "wine country" in California where I live, I spotted something about fifty yards off to the east. As it caught my eye, it struck me that it must be something unusual, given I didn't recognize what it was ie I had no idea what it was I was looking at. Literally. The only thing I knew about it was that if it were garbage, my mind was already made up to walk over to it and retrieve it and remove it from the park.

One of the things to which I'm committed when I hike is picking up garbage from the trails and taking it out to the bins placed expressly for that purpose at the park gates (and I'll spare y'all my personal, well-articulated opinions of all those nice people who use hiking trails as their private garbage dumps). As I walked closer to whatever it was, now about twenty yards away, I still couldn't distinguish if it was garbage or not. "It could  be garbage" I mused, "Hmmm ... it may  be garbage", closer and closer, still maybe garbage ... and yet still maybe not ... until I had walked right up to it, closing the gap between us to mere feet, and got a clearer look.

There are those times when you get near to something which from a distance is unidentifiable, and then once you're up close, you see it's actually something quite commonplace, something ordinary. Well ... this  time definitely wasn't one of those occasions. What it was, was a little snake throttling a large hawk ("Say whut!?  ..." is what I gasped to myself, astonished). Definitely not commonplace. Certainly not ordinary. Not exactly something you see every day. It was a completely impossible encounter between the two of them, a David and Goliath  fight to the death, a wrestling match in which the gallant, battered underdog is pulling off a stunning upset.

I have no idea  what action and events preceded this scenario ie what happened which led up to it. I can only imagine. My guess is the hawk saw an easy breakfast in the snake, and got the surprise of its life (literally) when the snake fought back ... and won  (indeed it was surely the last  surprise the hawk would ever get in its life).

Standing there, it was clear to me the hawk was breathing its last few breaths. Then, arguably because I'm a good guy, the thought crossed my mind to step in and rescue  the hawk by unbraiding the snake from its neck and thorax. Yes that thought did cross my mind ... and immediately afterwards it was outgunned by another thought which intoned "Walk on Laurence, and leave nature be"  - which after a few minutes I did, but not before bowing to the privilege of having witnessed this epic battle at exactly this very moment, a showing  about which the rich folk lore of our native American Comanche  people surely has something profound to say.

As I turned and walked away, the dithering thoughts restarted. "Rescue? Or not? Rescue? Or not?". It was sixty yards down the trail where I abruptly turned and walked back, the thought now trending was "Maybe I should  rescue the hawk" (the origin and skew of such well-intentioned thinking merit an entire essay). Yet once back at the battleground, I again heard the firmly assured "Walk on Laurence, and leave nature be.". It's what I finally elected to do. By a simple twist of fate, it could have been the snake to which my thoughts of rescue were directed. That would have been a second possible option. This time they were directed towards the hawk.

But what got me finally was "Walk on, and leave nature be", the third possible option - maybe not the right  option (and I don't know what the right option is in a situation like this) but it's an option nonetheless, the option I took, the option I'm responsible for having taken. I left that little snake wrapped around his much larger adversary, not interfering in their world, merely observing it, sympathetic to the plight of the hawk, yet marveling at that little snake's against-all-odds  victory over it.



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