New Millennium Journal: Confessions of a Doubter
"December 29: ...Is there a 'doubter gene'? Science has found many others: they claim that there's a 'stamina gene', and a 'fatness gene', and genes for assorted maladies that follow familial lines. If there is a gene for doubters, then some might claim I've got it. The 'skeptical' gene', they might call it. I look around at our spinning world, at this so-called millennium's end, and see mostly sham and illusion: a vast big-brained troupe of apes that is kidding itself toward extinction. And no one can do much about it because no one admits it is so. Except, of course, myself -- a voice in a howling wilderness.
But a single gene is too simple. As always, science is a bit too glib. My views spring not from genetic codes but from stopping to think things over. I watch and listen, and I string what I find together. I take my time with the harder bits and am not ashamed to do so. It's an old approach, like everything else in my line. But little used in our day. It runs against the grain for most. It keeps them from 'getting things done.' And it's bad for their digestion. The advice most commonly taken seems gleaned from the well-worn adage: 'Life doesn't bear close scrutiny.' I take the opposite viewpoint: for me it must bear nothing else."
"January 24: Lars Larsen left Hjelmelund when the snows melted, in 1856. He could not afford travel by boat and so circled around the fjords, hitching rides on horse-carts, or walking, for nearly 200 miles. Often he climbed the goat-paths over mountains, descending steep trails on his pants'-seat, which wore through half way there and was patched with bits of barrel-stave. The furze was blooming; the grey-hens called in the forests. The fjords were dark and clotted with bergs, the blue ice gone green in the sunbeams. Overhead were sky and clouds and the highest crags, beaded beneath with bleating sheep and strands of goats in the heather. The racing cloud-shadows clutched and released them, blotted them with shade that then drained them back into light, the rhythm repeated all day in endless variations, as it had been for millennia. These sights he had always known. The wind stood his curly hair on end and chilled the sweat of his armpits, the valleys shimmered in the sun. He was leaving it all forever."
"May 24: Sometimes I have this conviction that I know the woods very well, can correctly interpret its signs, and am therefore one of its denizens in the way once common to us all. Yet I see this also as illusion, the desperate wishful thinking of a Green Man permanently banished."
"June 24: My (botanical) interest, my desire to cram my head further with taxonomic details, is approaching saturation. I'm distracted by other things as we move along the trails: the quality of light in the trees and fields, the singing of certain birds, the odor and push of the breeze, the light reflecting on the ponds and leaves... even my fellow hikers. I'm distracted as well by my thoughts, which never shut off for an instant but tumble on compulsively, weaving and braiding impressions, forging links with present and past, processing new and old.
I'm a failure as a reductionist. Or, I should say, I've managed to succeed with it about as far as I comfortably wish. Been there, done that, with room for a few more surprises. But not every blessed species. I can't poke my nose down to every bract and scramble to cough up the Latin when my senses crave the whole, or chase after choice sensations. Like a dog on a savory romp, I pursue no single focus but five or six at once. A lifetime of complex daydreams have fermented in my brain, and I intend to enjoy the wine."