- Karl Thunemann
Discarding the Saturnine for Vigilance
Once I had invited my inner 8-year-old to select a new job, I found myself enveloped in a creepy sense of vulnerability. I wondered how often this had happened before. Trying to work through knotty emotional problems, I have often come upon a beautiful path toward a solution. But fruition would never come. My idea would shrivel on the vine, and in the end I would be unable even to recall it.
Fighting such a disaster, I took pains to honor the terms of my agreement. I would not assign a task to this inner boy—this entity that I know oh so well and yet not at all: I would wait to hear from him. Clearly, I would make no list of possible assignments, each marked with its advantages and possible drawbacks. I do know how to wait, don’t I? Sometimes he would come to mind as I lay awaiting sleep. The door remained open. This made me smile.
And when the answer came, it was sudden and definite. For some months I had been wrestling with the Gaia theory, the idea that Earth is, perhaps, itself a sentient organism (even a goddess—hence the name Gaia, the Earth Mother of the ancient Greeks), equipped with elaborate feedback systems to maintain Earth’s capacity to sustain life. The boy’s answer was not articulate—indeed, it wasn’t even verbal. But I immediately understood: He would be my emissary to Gaia. If she is a goddess, he will know it. He will listen to know whether she is open to beseeching or devotions. He will search the lay of Gaia’s land.
Of course I immediately embraced the offer, but I needed several days to explore its implications. It helped to recall SETI—the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence—and the institute that drives its quest to tune into radio broadcasts from outer space and speculate about life beyond our orb. Intelligent life. The search for Gaia is not at all like that. There is the scientific search, naturally, which aims for a detailed map of all the feedback systems that keep Earth on the job. And there is the search for the entity, perhaps the goddess, a search that so far depends on intuition and extra-sensory perception. Both are related to the unconscious, both individual and collective. My internal 8-year-old is well-suited to this latter search, for he is a scion of the unconscious. He speaks the language, whatever it is, far better than I. Will he know how to communicate with me, or will he struggle to penetrate the chaotic chatter of everyday life?
It helped to recall SETI—the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence—and the institute that drives its quest to tune into radio broadcasts from outer space and speculate about life beyond our orb. Intelligent life.The search for Gaia is not at all like that.
It should feel satisfying, but I find myself plagued by feelings of depression, like wading through a marsh. How can I tell whether this feeling belongs to me or the boy? Maybe I will miss him. Maybe he will miss a life wrapped up in the personas and anxieties of his host. It may be harrowing, but at least it has been familiar. The vision of a new life may have been shaken, but it still seems tenable and full of hope. Neither of us can know exactly what awaits him. He may enter a channel teeming with entities much like himself, emissaries seeking to contact Gaia and propitiate her to help our species survive, along with all the other species we imagine to be part of our dominion.
There’ll be no scheduling of quarterly reports. All I can do is wish him Godspeed, keep my ear to the ground and whisper his new name into the silence. That name is Vig, with a soft g, short for Vigilant.
 See my earlier—oops! Still unwritten—epistle, “Give Gaia a Chance!