Furled fern

Sticky, spiky, raw, strange. Is it a plant or an insect? Something not quite healthy or sane from outer space, maybe.

The further away from our own branch of the evolutionary tree life gets, the more inclined we are to see it as a potential menace. It starts to look uncanny or evil. Without the semblance of kinship to calm us, we revert to a primal fight or flight response.

These tightly furled spirals are not embryonic fists clenched for a punch or alien larvae poised to burst forth and eat your face. They are baby leaves folded efficiently into a fibonacci space, waiting for enough energy to unpack themselves and spread out into the light.


To be truly civilized we must strive to see the beauty of the alien and the unknown, the elegance and genius of things that are most unlike us. (And this is not the same thing as fetishizing the exotic, which is just another way of reinforcing our own norms.) We have to learn how to not panic in the face of the uncomfortably unfamiliar.

One day, if we survive long enough, we will encounter true aliens: creatures who do not share our DNA at all. If we have not learned by then how to breathe through our fear of difference—how to seek and honor beauty in new contexts—the consequences will undoubtedly be tragic.


A Year Ago: Reflection on Dining

Restaurant exterior.I can see myself here…
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4 Responses to Otherness
  1. Dale
    April 27, 2011 | 4:07 pm


  2. Rakewell
    April 28, 2011 | 1:57 am

    I have it on good authority that alien life forms consider us to be ugly–ugly bags of mostly water, to be precise.


  3. NT
    April 28, 2011 | 11:45 am

    Ha! Troi says “all life is beautiful to us.” I rest my case. :)

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