Who is the Alien?
“...I sit at my desk now
like a tiny proprietor,
a cottage industry in every cell.
My blood runs laps;
I doubt yours does,
but we share an abstract fever
a common swelter of sun.
So Beast, pause a moment,
you are welcome here.
I am life, and life loves life.”
Diane Ackerman (excerpt “Ode to the Alien” from “Wife of Light”)
Many of my friends and family have been checking out their ancestry through DNA. Some are surprised when the results come back. One friend told me Friday night that he was mostly Northern European, and 4% Neanderthal. I said, “I could have told you that!” Another friend, a well-respected lawyer and professor, said that most of his relatives sneaked across our southern border four generations ago. None of us is pure bred—our dogs have better pedigrees. Which makes it all the more surprising that we are still so clannish.
Recently, there was a TED talk about this subject. Seth Godin, marketer and author, says the internet has revived a social unit from the deep past—tribes. Now, however, our tribes are bound by shared ideas and values, rather than blood-kinship. It doesn't take much in the way of social stress to send us packing back to the territory of I-me-and-mine. Only, now our territory may include people from anywhere in the world. There is speculation that we may actually end up with one common world language simply because differences in language were originally intended to identify the tribe. If you spoke our language, it meant you were “one of us,” and acceptable—if not, well...
I love the imagery in Diane Ackerman's poem, “Ode to the Alien.” She points out our cellular activity—“a cottage industry in every cell”—referencing the mitochondria that power the processes inside our cells. They are the little engines of energy, which were once alien creatures. Now symbiotic, we cannot survive without them. There is a clue in there somewhere. We all love life, don't we?
In the Spirit,