Monday, April 11, 2011
How Would You Talk to a Snail?
In my own defense, I did post a warning beforehand that it would be. And this is my obligatory apology afterward.
Look, sometimes I just have stuff I need to get off my chest, and I know it's weird unreadable stuff that only about six people on planet earth give a shit about (hence the title of this blog), and you know, I can't help it.
I just can't.
(Hence the blog itself. A container for my personal madness.)
Anyway, that all reminds me of a joke an employer of mine used to tell about a snail:
A guy is sitting in his living room watching television when suddenly there's a loud knock at his front door. He goes to the door and opens it, looks around, sees no one, shuts the door and goes back to his TV program. No sooner has he sat down than that loud knock comes again. Again he gets up, opens the door, sees no one, and stomps back to his seat, irritated. Almost immediately the knocking starts again, so he gets up, stomps over to the door, yanks it open, and this time looks down at the porch and sees a snail sitting there, facing the door. Infuriated at the constant interruption, the guy starts cussing wildly, picks up the snail, and hurls it as hard as he can and as far as he can out into the street.
Five years later he's sitting on his couch watching TV when again, BAM! BAM! BAM! He hears that same knock on the front door. He gets up opens the door, and there sits that very same snail. The snail looks straight at him and asks in all innocence,
"What the hell was that all about?"
Time is relative.
I think about that a lot in regard to aliens and how they might communicate with human beings should they desire to do so.
The truth is, we'd have a hell of a time even having a decent conversation with a snail never mind a creature from another world. For one thing, we're on different time schedules. Then there's the language barrier and the size barrier.
And yet, even though we can't even converse with a lowly snail, we figure mega-advanced but totally alien life forms will approach us, speak in language that makes sense to us, and do it on our schedule and in terms of our interests.
So many alien abduction and alien encounter stories involve distortions in time that make no immediate sense. I've often wondered if this is because we are receiving communications from a species with a completely different conception of time, one we don't fully grasp.
The message, the content of the communication, is also at issue. If you were a snail trying to convey some snail concerns about humans to a human, your first move attempt might not get total uptake. Probably the human would wander away before you were one tenth of the way through it (that or throw you as hard as possible into the street).
Now think of these poor aliens. We'd like to think they'd show up understanding English and armed with some mathematical formulas to bridge the creature gap, but possibly their agenda and their schedule is quite different than ours.
That's what makes the notion of using visual symbolic communication so appealing as a possibility. Symbols are dense and capable of carrying an enormous amount of information in seemingly simple form. Work them into narratives and dramas and they're even more powerful and complex. Symbolism and visual information also cuts through the language and the education barrier.
We like to imagine that intelligent aliens would seek out brilliant scientists or powerful politicians as their first point of contact, but why would they? Again, if that's our bias.
I have another alien/snail story that really sticks with me even though most people think it's stupid.
Suppose a snail was sliming slowly along a damp sidewalk. A human comes by, picks up the snail, moves it six feet forward in a matter of a second or two.
The snail would have absolutely no clue what just happened. Also, it would seem to the snail as if no time had passed, as if it was just suddenly somewhere else.
That kind of thing actually happens to abductees and experiencers.
They're not snails, I know.