We are enjoying Wind in the Willows sort of days of late. Every so often, I crave for some comfort reading and fall back on Children’s story books. The Wind in the Willows is one such. I still remember my best friend walking up to the front of the assembly and saying nervously, “The Wind in the Willows By Kenneth Grahame. The Mole had been working hard all morning spring cleaning his home …” She had me sit in the first row so she could look at me for moral support, and I gladly obliged. She had brushed her wavy hair neatly parted at the side, and her nervousness was evident in the small shake in her voice. She looked at me and smiled nervously and I gave her a large blooming-flower-kind of smile that encouraged her to go on and she carried on heartened. She finished her recitation to much applause, and collapsed on the chair next to me, and I assured her that she had been marvelous.
When I read snippets of the book on the train, I thought of her again and all the sunny balmy days of childhood play in the warm sun and pouring rain came back to me. Folks looked at me like I need to have my head examined, I grinned disarmingly at them. After all, Grahame described The Wind in the Reeds (the working title till it became Wind in the Willows) as:
“A book of youth, and so perhaps chiefly for youth and those who still keep the spirit of youth alive in them; of life, sunshine, running water, woodlands, dusty roads, winter firesides, free of problems, clear of the clash of the sex, of life as it might fairly be supposed to be regarded by some of the wise, small things that ‘glide in grasses and rubble of woody wreck’.”
There is something deeply alluring about animal stories. I love to imagine them talking to each other, helping one another in times of trouble and having their little adventures. I was similarly happy when I read another passage on Dolphins and Humans in the Cosmic Connection by Carl Sagan. These helpful animals probably crave a little intellectual stimulation and have often been friends to humans, and yet we have shown them time and again how heartless we are by going after them.
Carl Sagan writes of Elvar the Dolphin, who he had the pleasure of meeting during one of his visits to his friend, John Lilly. John Lilly was an admirable scientist who was involved in several researches, Dolphins being one of them. Lilly introduced Elvar-the-Dolphin to Sagan-the-Human, and seeing that they were getting along, let them to it. Sagan and Elvar came into playing a sort of game, and after being splashed thoroughly by Elvar thrice, Sagan refused to play a fourth time.
Elvar surveyed the standoff for several minutes and swam up to Sagan up and said in a squeaky tone of voice, “More!”.
Carl Sagan, justifiably flustered, came running to his friend and said he might have heard a dolphin say the word, “More”.
To which his friend asked him, “Was it in context?”
“Yes! “, spluttered the poor physicist, to which the neuro-scientist smiled and said that it was one of the 50 odd words he knew.
In all these years, we have yet to pick up one word of Dolphinese and yet, we boast about being knowledgable and go to no end to display our arrogance to Mother Nature.
If we are so intent about looking for extra terrestrial life, maybe we should stop and let our own ecosystems thrive.
I am reminded of what William James said, about letting Nature teach us as she ought:
“It is to be hoped that we have some friend, perhaps more young than old, whose soul is of this sky-blue tint, whose affinities are rather with flowers and birds and all enchanting innocencies, than with dark human passions, who can think of no ill of man.“