You Knew I Was a Snake When You Picked Me Up

This isn’t a great photo, but I did take it myself. Not always easy to be steady when one encounters a rattlesnake in the wild.

Which I have, three different times. What I like about rattlesnakes is, they let you know they’re there before you step on them. Yes, I hear you, nay-sayer person out there. Inevitably when I say that, someone shakes their head and says, in an ominous tone, Not Always. Well, if I ever got near a rattlesnake that didn’t rattle before I got too near, I never knew it. The other times? Yeah, I heard that rattle and jumped back three feet before I even processed what that sound was. Gotta love those hard-wired protective instincts. Thank you, evolution!

We watched Eat Pray Love a little while back. No, I confess I haven’t read it. My mom gave me her copy some time ago – before we moved to Santa Fe, come to think of it – and it’s been sitting in my TBR pile ever since. In both houses. I never read The Last American Man, either, which my friend, RoseMarie, loved loved loved. I have a titch of a trigger about “finding real meaning” stories. Not that I don’t believe real meaning can’t be found out there. It’s just that…erf.

Okay, here’s the thing.

In the movie – and I totally cop to all arguments that Hollywood oversimplifies and probably made this far less deep than in the book – there’s this pervasive idea that everyone you meet is a teacher. This is a very Buddhist concept, that even the person you brush against on the street is connected to you and has a message for you. I always think of places like New York City with this one and I wonder if the Buddhists who first contemplated this idea ever conceived of just how many bodies people would eventually managed to jam onto one street.

But that’s neither here nor there.

Actually, maybe it is. Because, if you go around believing that every single person you encounter has a message for you…well, you’re not going to get much done besides receiving messages. Now, I do believe that we meet people for reasons and we do learn things from each other, but I think we have to apply a filter. We don’t throw out perception and intelligence, in the interest of receiving messages. The crazy person who yammers on about things that kind of sound profound and kind of sound nutty? Might be just nutty. Like the guy at the Ashram in India – he calls Julia on all sorts of stuff, like he’s a greater authority than she on her own life. She learns lessons from him, from his sorrows and it’s all lovely.

The thing is, sure everything in this world can teach us a lesson. That doesn’t mean you have to embrace it. A rattlesnake makes a fine teacher, carrying lessons about walking softly, paying attention, trusting those atavistic reflexes. That doesn’t mean you want to hang out with the rattlesnake.

Sometimes it’s enough to recognize the poisonous for what it is, then walk carefully in the other direction.

10 Replies to “You Knew I Was a Snake When You Picked Me Up”

  1. Sometimes it's enough to recognize the poisonous for what it is, then walk carefully in the other direction.

    So very true for writers — well, for everyone really. Every time we put ourselves out there, we're bound to encounter the beneficial and the toxic. I imagine we spend a good portion of our lives trying to sort out which is which, since not everyone comes with a rattle.

  2. Damn, KAK – I seriously wish I'd thought to say that! That's an excellent point and a perfect capper. Not everyone comes with a rattle. Words to live by.

  3. This, KAK, is just perfect:

    So very true for writers — well, for everyone really. Every time we put ourselves out there, we're bound to encounter the beneficial and the toxic. I imagine we spend a good portion of our lives trying to sort out which is which, since not everyone comes with a rattle.

    This is a whole collection of lessons I've been struggling with for awhile. You summarized it beautifully.

  4. The rattling snake, the growling dog, the hot stove burner, and the dark mouth of the alley might all have the same lesson to teach you. If you're paying attention and keeping track, maybe you don't need to visit with each of them. I gotta believe there's a significant redundancy factor built into all of those chance encounters on the crowded streets of Gotham, as well.

  5. Good point, Kev – the universe is, indeed, endlessly patient in offering us opportunities to learn the same lesson. Until we either get it or get killed off by it!

  6. to quote you, "well, you're not going to get much done besides receiving messages." i think i needed to hear THAT message to realize i need to stop receiving and start hitting send (in the form of my own writing).

    also, the book EAT PRAY LOVE? LOVED. the movie? blerg. yuck. just saying. give the book a chance!

  7. Very true, Linda!

    Oh good, Abby. That's an interesting insight, that you've listened enough and need to get busy speaking! I may have to dig that book out of the pile…

  8. Sometimes it's enough to recognize the poisonous for what it is, then walk carefully in the other direction.

    Amen. Sometimes we ignore the hard wired instincts because it's someone close to us someone we trust. Never, ever do that. go with your gut.

    Haven't read Eat, Pray, Love or saw the movie.

  9. Good point. I think that most of us spend a lot of time trying to talk ourselves out of acting on what we *know* are poisonous situations, rather than bailing. Because…holy crap…what would other people *think*?

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