I'm obsessed with aliens. Waiting for them to come down already. To bring peace and salvation or complete destruction to planet Earth. I don't care either way as long as they get here before I die. Mostly so that I can strut around my small personal world crowing "I told you so. I told you so". Actually, for all I know, "they" are probably already here. Laughing at the fact that we humans haven't even realized that the extraterrestrials have been walking around among us since the beginning, watching us, teaching us, guiding us.
Yes, I'm joking...sort of. I do scan the skies though…waiting, hoping, praying that I will see a UFO. It's sort of a running joke I have with my family and I enjoy it. The closest I ever came to seeing a UFO was years ago when I was on a boat in the British Virgin Islands. I was on a catamaran and the captain of the boat noticed a strange colored light, moving across the sky in a completely erratic but lightning fast fashion. It was something he had never seen before and he was entranced. As was I. "They're here!" I called out, laughing. "They've arrived." The other crew members and guests were amused at our fantasy, and went back to dinner. But he and I stayed there for quite a while on the bridge, astonished at what was definitely something highly unusual darting across the night sky.
Suddenly we heard a very loud and startling smack and then bang from the back of the boat and we ran down to investigate. Apparently a very large tarpon (keep in mind that tarpon can grow up to 8 feet long and can weigh over 250 pounds) had been chasing some flying fish (the captain surmised) and had miscalculated the leap. The fish had smashed into the back of the boat instead. We looked around, assessing if there was any real damage to the boat, but all we found were several incredibly beautiful transparent round discs that looked as if they had been dipped one third of the way in to a thick liquid metallic gloss. Imagine a large sand dollar, the size of a man’s palm, but made out of the most beautiful piece of sea glass you have ever seen, with the top of the disc coated in pure shimmering liquid mercury-like silver. That's exactly what the tarpon scales looked like. I held one in my hand, and except for the fact that it was somewhat slimy, I think, to this day, that that singular fish scale is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my entire life.
"Oh my God" I sighed, picking one of the discs up and holding it up to the light on the back of the boat and to the captain. "Look what the aliens have given us" I joked. "I've never seen anything so beautiful" and it was that gorgeous. As gorgeous and perfect as only something from nature can be. "Naw, that's not an alien gift" the captain explained in his wonderful Afrikaans accented English "That's just a scale, from the tarpon that hit the boat, but it is amazing. Imagine, the scale you are holding is just one of hundreds of scales that the fish that jumped on the boat was covered in. That tarpon probably doesn't even know that he's missing some scales right now. He'll just grow some more to replace the missing ones. Nature is so epic...in every single way."
When it was time for the captain to go to sleep I stayed on the bridge alone, trying to telepathically communicate with the aliens in the UFO that the captain and I had seen earlier.
Then I had a fantasy as it were. I told myself a story. That the aliens picked up my telepathic signal and came down to meet me. As they descended from their space craft I was surprised, and a little disappointed, to see that they looked like aliens straight out of central casting. All big black liquid-y eyes and huge oddly shaped heads. Small, grey, almost fragile looking bodies. Then they started to communicate with me. Telepathically - of course.
Greetings Earthling, We come in peace.
Well that's nice. Hello! Welcome, welcome. You finally made it. How was your voyage? How are you?
Fine thanks, and you?
I'm happy. Completely overjoyed. So happy to see you. To finally meet you.
What is that you are holding?
Oh, this? This is a tarpon scale.
A tarpon. It’s a fish. Look, there are some at the back of the boat.
So they float over and observe the fish and then I get this message:
How amazing. How beautiful. How do these "fish" work? What are they suspended in? How do they move? This world already seems so interesting. Just observe this majestic "fish". This wonderful being covered in this gorgeous silver casing. Do you worship this creature here on earth?"
No no no, tarpons are nothing. Crappy-ass fish. Bony. A nuisance. Seriously, we have much more amazing creatures than that here. Just you wait.
As we were communicating a large sea turtle popped its head out of the water, and gave us a glance, probably attracted by the glowing light emanating from my lovely new alien friends.
Look! Another one! Amazing. What kind of tarpon is that?
No, no, that's not a tarpon, that’s a turtle.
Simply incredible! Does it always carry its space ship on its back?
Yes. Something like that anyway. Trust me, this planet is simply wild! We have over 33,000 species of fish and 360 species of turtles here. There are an estimated 3.5 trillion fish on this planet and over 6 million turtles.
We would like to explore this planet.
Yes! Yes!!!!! Let's go. I'll be your guide. This planet is beyond belief. Seriously, you are going to die.
We don't die.
Oh...wow. That's cool. Okay...let's go.
And then I start to cry. Big salty tears just running down my face.
What's happening in here?
The aliens were inside my head of course so they could feel the dramatic change in my mood. The change in atmosphere up there. From joy at finally meeting my ET friends to complete despair.
Something has shifted. We don't like this. It's cold in here now. Dark. Heavy. It's foggy, hard to see clearly. What is happening? What are those things on your face?
Those are called tears. I'm sad. Ashamed of myself.
Why? Why such a drastic change in your head?
I feel guilty. I live here. On the most amazing planet anywhere. Perfect for humans, and I'm not grateful. Once I show you this planet you will understand. It's so incredible. We have cats and dogs and bunnies and snakes and jellyfish and anteaters and aardvarks (no, NOT the same thing) and armadillos and grasshoppers and octopuses...
Ah, yes! Octopi and spiders and horses and sharks and honeybadgers and trees and lakes and streams and oceans and deserts and icebergs and mountains and cities and rain and snow. We also have endless things to do here. Fun things. Exciting things. And birds! We have birds!!! Wait until you see a bird. An owl. Or an eagle. Or a peacock. Or even better an albino peacock! It will blow your...whatever is it you have in there behind those oily fathomless eyes of yours. Planet earth is really quite magical. We humans are so blessed. You will see you once I take you around. It's so amazing that if you could die from sheer delight, you would.
Then why cry?
Because I don't appreciate it. Because I'm ungrateful. Because "I'm sunburned" and "they don't have lemonade" and "someone got my towel wet" and "I forgot my book at home" and "I don't have wifi" and "whaa whaa whaaa" like a baby. I feel sorry for myself. I've seen double amputees in wheelchairs more grateful for this gift of life than I am. More grateful for this experience of a human existence. Why can't I be more grateful? Why don't I live in gratitude 24/7? I'm a horrible person. A bad person. A miserly negative ungrateful petty small-minded miserable wretch.
Calm down. Calm down. Breathe. Now listen, the first step to addressing a problem is admitting that you have one, correct?
Hey, that's an A.A. line.
Yes. We know. Is it true?
Yes, yes. That is true.
Now, being aware, can you do something about this? This inability to tap into gratitude at will?
Yes. I can. I try. I really do try.
No. You really don't. Not hard enough anyway.
Shit! I had forgotten that they were still in my head and therefore could see that we humans more often than not use the phrase "but I'm trying" as a total cop-out. So we can continue on, engaging in behaviors that make us hate ourselves but that we are - for whatever reason - unable or unwilling to give up.
Well okay. Yes. I can try. I mean really try. I can try to tap into that gratitude that I can describe to you but can’t always feel myself.
That's a start then. Don't get so down on yourself. You have admitted to yourself and to us that you would like to feel more gratitude. We have imprinted on you. We will always be in your mind now. For the better. So when you find yourself bitching that the coffee is not hot enough or that your flight is cancelled or even that your beloved friend is sick remember that we are in here with you, observing. And as a human you have free will. Most of you don't know this but you can learn to control your mind, not have it constantly control you. In the case of your friend, instead of telling us how unfair and terrifying reality is you could try this: “Look. There she is. There is my sick friend. She is suffering. But how lucky am I to know her. She's a wonderful person. And her body is trying to fight her illness off. And look at these flowers I brought to her, to cheer her up. There is real joy to be had there. In the giving and in the receiving.”
I interrupt my new teachers.
Hey! Do you guys know that there are over 400,000 different types of flowers on this planet and every single one is a joy to behold? Even the weird, scary ones? A single flower is an absolute miracle of beauty and engineering!
Yes. We have heard of these flowers. Extraordinary things. Remember that if you can. Do you think you can do that? If you can train yourself to stay in gratitude as opposed to staying stuck in all your insignificant little human problems it will make your fleeting time here on this wondrous planet so much more enjoyable. We can promise you that.
And with that my little grey friends hopped into their spaceship and zoomed away. I was left stunned. Delighted by the wisdom they had imparted to me, in my daydream that night, standing by myself on the catamaran’s bridge.
Eventually I left the bridge and as I was the last person awake on the boat it was left to me to turn off the lights. But I could not find the cleverly concealed light switches. They had been ingeniously placed so as to avoid any salt water damage. And the dissatisfied whining in my head started up almost immediately. "This boat is a joke. Why would the idiot designer of this shitty boat hide the light switches? So annoying. So stupid. So incredibly frustrating. I hate boats! With all their stupid little boaty tricks." But then I remembered the aliens, the ones still lodged in my mind, watching. "But how amazing" I said, to myself but also to them "that there are boats like this. With fresh running water, soft comfy beds, even (I'm embarrassed to admit) AC in the staterooms".
Much much better! That's it, Champ. Well done...
The aliens cheered me on, in my own voice of course.
And then I went below deck and fell sound asleep, on my soft clean bed, in my wonderfully cool cabin, on the most beautiful boat I had ever seen.