An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of January 14, 2008
Written at Yerba Buena and issued from a ciber in
Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacan, Chiapas, MÉXICO

WORMS & MAGICAL REALISM

I was talking with one of our workers when he grabbed his stomach and almost fainted. After some questions I diagnosed his problem as probably a bad case of intestinal worms. From there the discussion drifted into traditional cures and from there into witchcraft and local legends touching on the supernatural.

Here where native people in traditional dress walk among others wearing sunglasses and using cellular phones, and lethal poverty coexists with obscene excesses of richness, and powerful people display little or no education or talent, "magical realism" of the kind García Márquez wrote about is in the air, the sunlight, the very dirt we walk on.

I am surrounded by people of outstanding character and solid minds who at any moment of any day may tell me things the Northern mind simply can't accept. Impossible cures by barefoot curanderos, impossible feats of clairvoyance by neighborhood seers, impossible transformations of ordinary people into beings with demonic strength or character...

One night this week our three forest-protectors told me about a local creature something like a half-formed, half-alive monkey with mere slits for eyes. It emerges at dusk and after three spastic jumps on the ground suddenly it sprouts wings and flies off as a bat. If it's unable to finish its three jumps, it dies. One of the men has found remains of the thing with tiny wings sprouting in its armpits, obviously having died just before finishing its three jumps.

I've given up saying that snakes don't sting with their tails. Even my Grandpa Conrad told me about such snakes in Kentucky back in the 50s, about "hoopsnakes" who take their sharp, venomous tails into their mouths, form themselves into hoops, and roll down hills. Moments before spinning into your presence they straighten out and become poisonous spears that impale you.

In earlier years I have been here when level-headed eyewitnesses reported certain students at the Adventist university downslope becoming possessed, uttering impossibly bass-voiced blasphemies and fighting off teachers with impossible strength.

More than ever I am convinced that one of the greatest threats to Life on Earth is that we humans are so susceptible to -- often even prefer -- pure fiction.

In my opinion, one of the first steps of anyone wanting to mature to a higher level of sophistication should be this: To get straight in the mind what is really believed as truth, what might or might not be truth, and what is patently untrue.

Once the small handful of truths each person possesses are intuitively recognized, then those truths should be set aside in the mind, honored as sacred, and one's life should from that point on be based on them.

Isn't it true that in the whole Universe the only place where lies and half-truths are found is in the minds of unperfected sentient beings such as us? Facebook Icon.