There are some books that grab me and don't let go. William Powers's Whispering in the Giant's Ear is such a book. It has something I can't quite point to, which gives it barbs that perfectly match hooking places in my mind. It's the star-shaped block, star-shaped hole idea. It reminds me of the idea that you sometimes meet someone you feel like you knew in a former life. Déjà vu-ish. Déjà voodoo.
As I read, Rod Serling's voice echoed up from the past. Twilight Zone music gently wafting on the breeze blowing in one ear and out the other. What is it about this book that feels so ... me?
I've never been to Bolivia, or even South America, but I have a strong desire to go. Not as an eco-tourist, or any other kind of tourist, but to ... I don't know what. The Tranquilo idea Powers mentions so many times sounds like my own mindset. Maybe I was born in the wrong place. Because in the US if you're not working, working, working like an insane ant ramped up on speed, then there's something wrong with you.
Yes, there is something wrong with me. I need a transplant stat! A transplant from here to La Paz (The Peace). I'm not romanticizing; but I am dreaming! I know the indigenous Bolivians aren't all living in grass huts in 100% harmony with Nature. But, even many of the city dwellers live by the idea of Tranquilo, according to Powers.
My life hasn't been particularly hectic, but I get uptight about all the uptightness around me. Powers shows me a different drummer to march to. Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Edward Abbey, Ed Buryn, Annie Dillard, all marched to a similar drumbeat. Or maybe they just chilled in the shade of whatever tree they happened to be under and enjoyed the rhythm of life as it came.
A friend of mine used to say, "Go slow and things will go fast. Go fast and things will go slow." His meaning was that when we hurry we screw up and have to start over. Or, we start fumbling and tripping over our own feet. Or, we get a speeding ticket, which entails being stopped. So, you see, you get stopped and you're even later than you would've been if you had been driving the speed limit. A lot of wisdom in that idea.
From my ramblings so far, you may get the impression that Whispering in the Giant's Ear is only about Tranquilo. It's not. But unless you get that concept, some of the rest of what Powers discusses won't have the impact that it should. The Indians getting angry and doing things (which most norteamericanos would have expected from the outset) is in stark contrast to their normally laid back, peaceful ways. They had to learn to play by the giant's rules and, similar to Odysseus in the cave of the cyclops, use the giant's strength to save their lives and land.
This book makes me want to be a part of the things happening in other parts of the world. Places where big powerful rich countries try to tell small weak poor countries how life ought to be lived, how they ought to use and abuse the natural resources. Because, yeah, it has worked out great for the big countries hasn't it?
Not so much, to use a well-worn phrase. And cliché is exactly the role the big countries are playing. I want to join los indios and tell the big countries to go drill themselves! When will people learn that the whole friggin world does NOT belong to them?
I know, probably never. But, those of us who already think that way can keep raising our voices, our pens, our roadblocking bodies, our money and time. I may sound like I'm part of a cause, or like I'm part of a revolution. I'm not. I'm just a man who wants some beauty and oxygen and livable temperatures on this planet for future generations. Whether they are my blood relatives or not, we are related. We are all Earthlings.