Green Lakes: Three Sisters Wilderness Part 2
Today we are camped high above a lake in an area known as the Green Lakes. Although this particular green lake is turquoise blue, the color of the Caribbean. What makes these lakes such a color I have no idea, but it seems that the colder they are, the bluer they appear. This one is being fed by a glacier stream. Ice cold. And beautiful. Around the shoreline grows velvet green alpine tundra, equally vibrant in color. It’s a windy day, but the wind is warm, bringing with it the glow of summer. I’d say a rather perfect day. And now that we’ve arrived at camp early there’s nothing left to do but write in my journal, read my book, sip my tea, take a swim, or a nap. All excellent options. But as usual, I’ll choose not to decide. Perhaps it’s the lack of decisions that makes backpacking seem so relaxing. So Zen like. We are given the chance to rely on instinct rather than logic. I have nothing against logic. It comes in handy when doing a project. But instinct is something we seem to have forgotten almost entirely. Animal instinct. Take a bird for example. As far as I can tell, there seems to be no discussion, no decision-making, no committee meeting that takes place in the millisecond that occurs before a flock of birds changes direction during flight. Rather, a unanimous decision takes place instantaneously. There is no question as to which way is best. There is only one answer. The right one. A decision not premeditated, but made at the last possible second. As it should be. For what other way is there? Do the salmon decide whether or not to make the journey upstream to spawn or do they simply just go when it feels right? I think we all know the answer. But then why is it that human beings must ponder over every possible decision. Why must we plan out every detail of our lives. Year by year, day by day, minute by minute. If every moment of our day is pre-planned, where is there any room left for instinct? And so we are losing our most valuable skill.
Something that separates us from our furry, feathered, and scaled relatives is language. Advantage or hinderance? With language, we are able to put our thoughts together in such a way that we can make decisions to do incredible things. Entire cities are constructed. We create electronics and gadgets that do unbelievable things. We can easily and efficiently communicate and travel across the planet. We write books. Record history. Start religions. And start wars. With language, it seems, we are given the power to do anything. But language a hinderance? A disease? Could it be possible? Could language actually be limiting our full potential as a species?
If human beings reacted out of instinct instead of logic, would the world be the same as it is today? Would we have made all the same decisions leading up to now if we were not capable of verbal communication? And if we could not communicate verbally, how would we communicate? Is it possible that we once had the capacity to communicate like the flock of birds or the school of fish? Or could we have evolved to this level if it hadn’t been for language? I don’t know the answer. And I’ll choose again not to decide, but what would the world be like if we all just “knew” the right answers and never had to decide anything?
I believe human beings are drawn to sports for this very reason. Football, basketball, soccer, mountain biking, skiing. And extreme sports like whitewater kayaking, kiteboarding, windsurfing. Because when it’s game time, and the ball is thrown to you, there is no thought. No words. Just instinct. And professionals who truly excel in their sport fully realize this. For to be good, really good at your chosen sport, words, thought, and decision-making must take a backseat to pure instinct. If you are second guessing your decisions, you will fail. True pros are able to make decisions instantly, in the moment, without any possible doubt. They “know” what to do and when to do it. They “know” the right answer. Like the flock of birds. Or the school of fish. Is it possible that what we call talent is just really good decision-making? And is it possible that really good decision-making occurs with no thinking at all?
Thinking. It always comes back to thinking. Are we thinking our way into madness and destruction? Have we lost or just forgotten this most simple and pure way of being? Perhaps the mystics are right. Perhaps if we all just quiet the mind, we will all become enlightened, once again. Like the birds. Like the fish.
I for one would much rather have the opportunity to communicate with a bird, even for just five minutes, rather than with some extraterrestrial from another planet. We have so much to learn from this Earth that we live on. So much to learn. Before we figure out how to destroy it.