Sunday, December 27, 2020

Arizona Alligators

The unmistakable image of a large, fast moving alligator surfacing a few feet in front of me bypassed every controlled thought as my whole body tensed in unison and lunged several steps away from the waters edge. Then my rational thoughts made me laugh out loud as instinct yielded and I turned around to watch the mistaken log splash and bob downstream in the flood waters of the Verde River behind my Arizona home. The pounding in my ears quieted. The quivering muscles in my limbs steadied and I marveled at how irrational my reaction was and how little that matters at first to our instinctual mind, or at least to mine. Perhaps yours would do better at distinguishing an inanimate chunk of dead wood from a living, breathing terror of dinosaur proportions.

Wild, Arizona alligators are only real when they "escape" from homes that kept them as ill fated pets. That may not change whether they'll tear your limbs off in a bad situation but it does change our comfort level getting into our favorite watering holes. Same as Jaws didn't really keep people out of the ocean, even combined with some real attacks. These represent the successful transition from instinctual to rational.

But perhaps more often than we realize, we fail to make that transition. Lately, my wife and I have been working through some relational baggage in the family. The people have changed but some of our now instinctual responses to them have not. As a result of some obsolete sense of self preservation, we find ourselves in fight-or-flight every time a relational log floats by. The good news is we know the alligator isn't real and perseverance will retrain our instincts.

The same is true on the societal level. Perseverance of truthful reasoning is the necessity of being more than merely instinctual creatures chronically fooled by appearances. There's always plenty to keep us irrationally distant from each other, resistant to the unifying truth because of some political or religious 'gator it moves us closer to. Don't fear it. Time always shows those things to be merely ill fated pets you shouldn't keep anymore, and likely shouldn't have had in the first place. They'll end up in the zoo or the Everglades and you can meet at the local watering hole in peace.

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