In quiet times, or when I find myself delving into nature’s secrets, I ponder… I ask questions of my existence, my evolution, my present, my spirituality, my connection to the real. I consider myself to be animal, or just another organic being with no special purposes, but intrinsic in the eternal. I can feel myself closer to different identities however as any kind of stimulus from without or within has it’s way with me, through culture, relationships, knowledge, body, I take pleasure in entwining my persona with that of a biologist. According to wikipedia: “A biologist is a scientist who studies living organisms and their relationship to their environment. Biologists involved in basic research attempt to discover underlying mechanisms that govern how organisms work
But in today’s society, any discipline of study seems to clash and rift with this mundane notion of career. It has been carved out in a carefully packaged and tangible process form, available for anyone with a few thousand dollars to buy appropriate textbooks. I hold sacred the extreme insight and enlightenment that I have obtained from biologist, but at it’s core, the nature that lets them have this status. I feel small and out of place when I think about the average biologist, and how culture treats it accordingly. Re-quoting Christopher McCandless from Into The Wild “I think a career is a 21st century invention and I don’t want one”. I am a follower and disciple of the writings of true wild men; Muir, Thoreau, Emerson, Shaun Ellis, Jim Dutcher, Jack London, et all. I have mostly up till now silently reflected in awe of their pervading wisdom, and fertile love of life. None of these were adept “scholars” or “students” in the current sense. Others like Darwin, Mayr, Haeckel, Dawkins are more prolific, but with the exception of Darwin, less wild and more sedentary. I reflect in their shadow of great minds, an adopt a healthy dose of skepticism myself as to what I would really like with my own life. I have often chased the true meaning of pleasure, and got thrown back in the gyre of cyclic attachment and nullity. I see how rich and fertile these persons lives were and how much they altered the world we know, as well as their own quality of mortal existence. I am a biologist by nature, my mind condemns the stasis and inability to know my own ecology and the species and land I interact with that let me survive.
I perceive still a divisive force within me, a duality of wants and needs. At once I feel the want to abandon my expected comforts, my fear, my longing, and romantic appeal for studying nature and just BE. Muir often took years between publishing works, and when once challenged by a professional geologist at Harvard on the glaciation effects in the Sierras being irrelevant, he studied every stream and watershed and glacier course, and published a study that is revered by every geologist as true now. Said professor at Harvard had probably only had secondhand experience or dusty books from others to base his knowledge upon, and methinks did not spend more than a few hours in the region itself. Most of our present enlightenment came from these life experiences of those who did not have any “degree” to prove it. Unfiltered by analyzed and translated data.
In my lifetime, I would personally love to be “recognized” and be given the opportunity to integrate my own knowledge into evolving modern science, or undertaking research projects that would allow me to travel, but I am lost on the fact that I can not do this without having a piece of paper to prove I am the “right type”. Our need to classify and pigeonhole everything has made this discipline of knowing a commodity, and when it comes down to it, it becomes harder to survive without a sense of materialism in this world. I also feel there is something inherently wrong about telling someone “this is how it is” versus “seeing it happen yourself” and being taught in general as a means to an end. There is the inane exploitation of biology that comes in stride with this. Harvesting genes from animals and making hybrids, or clones for our own self-centered purposes, or the hunting and collection of animal parts for their so called medicinal properties, like sharks fins, or tiger bones. Do we really these in our life? There are always new reports of ‘organic remedies’ and drugs that are mass produced because the practical uses of one plant or animal was honestly studied by a biologist who’s information is stolen and filtered or manipulated. There is also the need in taxonomy to classify and name everything and sometimes imposing a hierarchy that is clearly not reality in nature. I am content not knowing the names of everything single plant or animal or fungus I encounter on my walks, why must we diminish the awe of something just to have a polished and scientific identity for every thing. I know friends who have admitted to me that what they are studying is totally irrelevant to what they want to do, and the amount of time it takes to learn is quite counterproductive. If I were to go the path of self-willed experience, I worry that I would never attain to a level that would allow me to be part of life changing studies or have wide published books because my bio would not list the name of any major university, so what is really for me?
If anyone already knows me in person, I am not opposed to formal study as such, and actually one of my aspirations involves actually being in a certain Scandinavian university, but this is really to gain the status of being a biologist, not because I feel I can learn anything more substantial than to go on my own, and imbibe the same knowledge from books. However I believe biology (and the other sciences) would be a great vector at eliminating religion, and our so called supremacy over other sentient life by exploring even further our comparisons, like Ida and the gene sequencing between primates and homosapiens or the link species in the tree of life, and how modern physics and physiology can explain with biology our similar patterns. So am I still a biologist, and can be called upon when a “qualified biological student of 5 years” is needed to take an expedition into the Himalayas to study blind cave faunas? Or will a lack of a certificate be my undoing, for someone else, who may just be a botanist and know nothing about nocturnal eastern animals, where I may be a certain adept already. Or will it prevent me from traveling to remote parts of the world to photograph new species, because of being considered an amateur. Biology is my choice of life, and I could think of no other way to spend a life to support myself if given the choice of studies alone, but this is also my worry. I certainly feel at times that I am in the wrong time period.
I’m still unsure, but maybe this uncertainty is my instinct and leading me to my own absolute reality. I do not want to be restricted to a desk my whole life, and become another faceless “learned man” or best selling author by conforming to a system, but I am like a sage crossed with a vagabond. I want to know everything I can that relates to biology, and the intimate connections it also has with other fields of thought, and to have still the utmost freedom, external to the fantasized lifestyle of 3 weeks vacation and 11 months in a laboratory. I want to have my name in the bibliography of a book or the credits of a nature documentary for my valuable contribution to progressing or creating a more pure understanding of nature in some special way through my personal works. So can my distaste for a career still nourish this possibility in this time of advancement. I still follow this circular path of unknowing and let my metaphorical hooves carve outward and forward paths where I can not only come back to the same visions and stand in place but follow on to be the biologist, and really take it for what it is.