Stoned Screaming Caterpillars

Sylvia Shawcross

I know we’re really all tired of the types of people in the world but really there are only two types of people in this ghastly world: the optimists and the pessimists. And it has been this way since time immemorial… or at least since the 1600s. And the reason we know this is because of the Hunger Stones.

(Now the Hunger Stones were messages carved into rocks at the drought level line in the rivers of Europe by people who lived through famines hundreds of years ago. For some reason, these images of these stark greyish rocks are compelling. Or maybe sobering. Or maybe the name reminds us of the culturally-familiar series “The Hunger Games.”)

Nevertheless, there is something about these stones that crawls into your brain and sits there like a vulture about to feast. We are seeing images on the media of rivers drying up all over the world but we don’t ultimately want to see it so we forget it. But we don’t.

We hear of famines (already and again and as ever) in the world and the leaders raving about food shortages and bug-eating enterprises and prices are going up and even as we say we won’t eat bugs, we probably will. We will eat the bugs because if that is all there is to eat, then that is likely what we’ll do. Because it has been engineered that way perhaps. Because it has been decreed. And because we’re human.

Humans have this strange but wonderful need to survive if only to see how it all turns out because we love perhaps or because we want to finally know if aliens really do exist or if its the globalists or the sovereigntists who win in the end or if only to finish Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” or to finally finish that “thing” we were going to do before we die.

The letters there carved on the stone are so unlike the fleeting blips and bleeps of a screen. Because history, as much as this new culture may want to erase it, well… it’s there. All of it—with all its seething and poignant lessons dribbling down to us because time sometimes goes backwards, not forwards and the child we will know tomorrow is the child of our ancestry looking back at us with wide stricken eyes.

But they’re more than that, these stones… it is the image we have of some poor bastard dragging their ragged bedraggled skeletal feverish body down to the river bed with chisel in hand to warn a Future they will never see.

Was it an act of kindness to the Future or a bitter warning? Maybe it was both. Maybe they were the last one standing and had to say something if only to communicate one last time. That’s what humans do. And that is the determination of one human being that once lived during terrible times.

Today, messages are written at the speed of light on a screen ephemeral, but these letters on stone, these words were a considered thing: a history of thought and feeling and memory and pondering. Not a blip of passing emotion forgotten in the scurry.

It asks us all if we had to carve our words in stone to a Future unknown, what would they be?

But nevertheless, this is where we can easily discern the optimist versus the pessimist.

Because for heavens sakes there’s always the ones that tell the worldly truth and the ones that spin a honeysunny narrative.

And depending on where you happen to be sitting in your life, we certainly can hate one or the other because when it comes to world views there is no in-between. (Even though, of course there is.)

Right now the world is inching from ghastly to horrific and we are left to consider the stones and their messages. One, near Bleckede in Germany, reads: “When this goes under, life will become more colourful again”.

Another says “Who once saw me, he cried. Whoever sees me now will cry.” And there it is, carved in stone—the two types of people in the world.

It is clear that one of them was on some kind of psychedelic. Who in the middle of a famine sees a colourful future?

Obviously stark raving mad. Or maybe they were blessed? Or maybe they were just hopeful. Or maybe they had faith.

This is what we grapple with now, each of us late at night when the crickets chirp and the moon hisses and the sunrise seems far away. But it does always come up, the sun. Every single day.

We never know what will wash up on the shore.

But that is besides the point. The point is, we repeat history every single time. And we never learn. We just make it more complicated and end up back at the beginning usually.

For example, academics have recently published a paper entitled “Longitudinal analysis of sentiment and emotion in news headlines using automated labelling using Transformer Language Models.”

(Imagine carving this onto a stone. That’s the thing about stones, they have a finite end and coloured blips on screens have none which tells us all we need to know about messaging really.)

In this paper, among other probably more important things, they’ve concluded that right-leaning media is dark and left-leaning media is kinda sunny. And we are living those in extremes right now. As the world grows darker so the rhetoric on both sides entrenches their respective stances.

But tell me how this is any different than the hunger stone messages? That slow motion convincing. It is nothing more than that revisited with more words and statistics added. What to do with all this “knowing.”

Instead of writing a paper they just had to go for a wander by a river in Bleckede where the ghosts whisper.

No amount of explaining changes what is. History repeats. And sometimes that fact is carved in stone. And it ain’t complicated. Courage comes by listening to ghosts who have lived it all before. We never know what we are capable of until we do what ends up being done and sometimes surprise ourselves in the process.

But never mind all that.

I know I have said we should promote eating bugs because it is the only thing we can discuss with full-flushed-uncensored-freedom and without raging arguments nowadays, but then I came across the caterpillar that screams.

Where the hell are the Insect Rights Groups?

And speaking of whatever it is I was talking about (or not) here’s an earworm:

Stand for peace. You’re welcome.

Sylvia Shawcross lives somewhere by a river in Quebec, Canada. A river which is still fine. I might buy me a chisel though. Just in case.


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