You bump into them sometimes.
The crazy ones.
The ones that wear the Einstein hair and the wild eyes.
It was Thursday and I was sitting in a hut that stood on stilts. It belonged to an old man, his wife, two sons and countless grandchildren. We had navigated our way inside a water jungle balancing on a tiny rowboat that fit three at a time.
I noticed him as he approached—eyes on fire and primed for war. A forceful handshake and he announced his name: “Camara.”
We were expecting the typical Filipino welcome, the kind that sits you on the best chair and offers you rice. Instead, we were greeted with a booming: “Why are you here?”
He then bamboozled us with the law on mangrove forests, deep ecology, and how the flooding of the plains affected their catch. And that we, the titled and privileged, were a threat to his peace. He pronounced it his life task to defend the law that defends the mangroves, and swore he’d gladly die for it.
Months before that he had beaten a public servant with a frying pan. I was dumbstruck. Couldn’t put a single word in. Mr. Camara had gone deep into himself and understood it his charge to safeguard the swamp.
And woe to anyone who gets in the way.
The ambassador of the group appeased him. Judiciously told him we were there as fellow champions of the tropical haven. Peace offered him cigarette paper for his smokes and steel for his battles. We set sail
in our tiny rowboat, amused but charmed by an old man who would die safeguarding the swamp.
On Wednesday I was sitting on cardboard, waiting in a garden for my husband. The garden belonged to a farmer, this one again, sporting the Einstein hair and the wild eyes. I was worried about the time. We were mere spectators and we were tired.
The sun was going to bed and then there was dinner. Except that the farmers had withdrawn from our time and space. Caught up in a world where dirt begets life and humus turns to gold. I couldn’t get a word in either.
We simply had to linger, watch and be amused by their eccentric devotion to the earth, to nubs and roots, and the germ of all things.
You bump into them sometimes. The crazy ones. The ones that that seem more alive than you have ever been on a frenzied day. They know exactly what to do with their lives.
Fired up with a love for something, someone, and they are tireless, and rich and full.
As though propelled by life itself.
And that thing that consumes them has taken root so deeply that they have built their lives around it.
If one listens to the faintest but constant suggestions of his genius, which are certainly true, he sees not to what extremes, or even insanity, it may lead him; and yet that way, as he grows more resolute and faithful, his road lies. -Henry David Thoreau
I do not think the meek will inherit the earth. I’m guessing the crazy ones are in it already.
The fiery, the bold, the geek, the eccentric, I am amused by them.
I mark them, wishing I knew exactly what to do with my life too.
My daughter was just asked: “What does your mama do?
“She’s a lawyer,” she replied.
“Oh. She’s always writing stuff.”
I bet she’s just as bewildered as I am. Because while I may begin with Attorney and append Juris Doctor to the family name, my crazed self only wants to write. And perhaps that is it.
The answer to the old man’s: “Why are you here?”
And Rilke’s: “Would you have to die if you’re forbidden to write?”
That eccentric devotion to something; that thing that consumes you so you don’t notice the sun going to bed or wonder about dinner. Those moments that catch you outside time and space, where everything comes alive or turns into gold. I’m guessing that’s life telling you what to do with life.
If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal — that is your success.~Henry David Thoreau
For the charmed few, the ones with the Einstein hair and the wild eyes, passion has already met purpose and they walk the earth intoxicated.
But for many of us, the ones that need to begin and append their names with a title, who cannot yet die for a swamp, or find bliss in a kernel, we can be gratified by the pockets of crazy:
when you fall into love;
and the day doesn’t end;
and you’re spirit-filled to the brim; and when there are there no spaces,
I bump into her sometimes, the crazed self.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Ally Aubry via Flickr