Most of us live in this neighborhood for peace, safety, quiet, and the great access to our wonderful Park. It should not surprise you to know that many of us work from home, which, although you likely do not know it, is far more difficult than working outside the home. Working at home requires discipline. We must ignore the infinite distractions that our mind knows exist just a reach away: cooked food, organizing and cleaning items, comfortable chairs and limitless entertainment, books-to-be-read, and other items, among the most powerful obvious temptation: ice cream.
Moreover, we live here for clean air, and that requires some level of the windows cracked opened, but this has a consequence, as well: increased noise from the outside world.
Your dog today presented such noise. Worse still for myself, the dog has a particular high pitch which strikes me as mildly reminiscent of my newborn son. Each yelp puts my brain on ‘high alert,’ as if he is screaming out crying that something is wrong, when in reality he is quite content nearby. I suspect there are a dozen other neighbors who experience varying levels of auditory interruptions from your dog, even if subconsciously. This is not the first time we have heard it, but it is the first time we investigated which apartment ‘owned’ the dog, so I have returned and taped this note to your door.
I have purposely taped the note quite thoroughly to the glass, to be a somewhat annoying — but ultimately harmless — nuisance. Please remember that this is not the fault of the dog. The fault lies with the human! In my case, with the taper, in your case, with the pet owner.
In essence, pet ownership in the United States has become emotional slavery. I suspect your dog — like most cats and dogs — makes you feel less lonely, more useful as a human, is an occasional source of pleasure, provides an excuse for a regular walk in the part, or fulfills other emotional needs. Slavery of humans — whether in the 1700s in North America, today, or throughout human history — is and was mostly about receiving free physical labor. Today, ownership of pets is emotional slavery: it is a one-sided relationship that exists for the “owner” to receive essentially “free” emotional benefits, while the pets receive little other than food, water, and minimal medical care in return. It is as one-sided a relationship as its counterpart in human slavery. The existence of the modern pet is a sad one.
At least yours is a dog. Cats, which are natural, carnivorous hunters, are often completely restricted to life inside a tiny home. Poor animals. Moreover, if you eat meat, like I do, I shall challenge you further: the lives of most of our pets would be better honored if we instead killed and ate them*. At least in that case we would be more honest. Is this not true? Moreover, are we the owners of our pets, like emotional slaves, or are we their care-takers?
The first bold phrase above is the title of an essay I drafted over a year ago and have wanted to finish writing for some time. Today, I thank you for reminding me of my beliefs, the challenges we face in this country, and more than anything, I thank you for motivating me to write! (Even if this letter itself was yet another distraction from real work masquerading as a useful exercise in writing and editing. At least it fulfilled that purpose quite rapidly.)
–Jay, your Anonymous Neighbor.
*Rest assured: on first glance, your dog did not appeal to our culinary senses. I did, however look into his eyes and say a heartfelt apology: I am sorry that our species does this sort of thing to his.
P.S. (a note for friends and other readers online): After walking on the property itself to post this note to the door, I noticed two things.
First, another neighbor had already left a short note, surprisingly polite, regarding the dog’s treatment.
Second, this dog was barking on a cold day, about 10C outside (50F, granted, with little wind), and I noticed it looked quite thin, and was shivering. Thinking it did not have access to the inside home through its small doggy ‘door,’ I returned with a can of sardines to feed it. As I ‘broke in’ to place the food inside the cage, the dog calmly stepped inside: it had access to the inside home through its little door.
This dog preferred to remain outside, barking for help all day, shivering in the cold, than remain alone inside! Must we really debate the idea that the dog would prefer to serve as a physical slave, performing some kind of laborious activity all day, than serve as an emotional slave? Pet ownership — and in few cases even parenting human children! — has become emotional slavery. It is time that we as Americans admit that to ourselves. Then, perhaps, we may decide how to progress forward.
2,200 words Read time @ 250 words/minute: 9 minutes
I wrote this essay because I often wear a rock necklace, and am sometimes asked why I do so. In addition to responding to the general question, the purpose of this essay is to differentiate between blind faith in some mystical “powers” of rocks and crystals, and a healthy balance of respect for the unknown combined with some amount of skepticism.
In 2013 I went through a relatively short period of increased creativity and mental energy I can only describe as “excessive.” For short, I refer to the period as “back when I was crazy.” Indeed, a few people close to me at the time were somewhat worried. Life was euphoric for a long time, and I was still able to focus and do work externally, although my internal mental state was disorganized, hyperactive, and more creative than I knew what to do with. Although I’ve never tried hallucinogenic drugs, from what I’ve read of such experiences, my experience was was like a very low hallucinogenic dose for an extremely long period of time.
I often wonder to myself, “Where did this come from?“
Highly mineralized (and completely different) water and plants in the Arizona region? Specifically: excess lithium which might have corrected a slowly growing mineral deficiency?
A resulting effect from my life during the last few months of 2012:
Beginning consistent meditation?
Reading nonfiction books 4-6+ hours per day?
Chlorine on the skin from many hours in a swimming pool?
A normal effect of being an adult male, who often have such mental episodes (i.e. schizophrenic, manic, depressive, or otherwise) in their late 20s?
Recently increased consumption of Brazil nuts, purchased specifically as a concentrated source of the mineral Selenium? (But only, unbeknownst to me at the time, if grown in selenium-rich soil!)
Supplements in the year prior, such as fish oil, vitamin D,
Healing of some sort after months in Afghanistan (with associated physiological stresses), or use of pharmaceutical sleep aids in years prior, like the semi-hallucinogenic product Ambien?
Some aspect of the air — perhaps higher general quality, lower humidity, or the dangerous reproductive spores of desert-based fungal species — in the southwest?
Did my roommates — medical doctors in their residency — drug me as an experiment?!
This is the subject for another time, but regardless of the cause(s), several months after it began, this mental craziness settled down, and I got back about my life.
With that in mind, I will continue with the topic, responding to the question: Why do you wear a rock necklace?
While in this “crazy phase,” I went through a quick but powerful obsession with rocks. Not gold… Gold is boring. (Diamonds, too.) Nay — rocks and crystals! Quartzes. Amethysts. Citrines. Tormelines. Ambers. Vanadinites. Rocks and crystals: buying them, touching them, placing them, feeling them, wearing them; even, on a few rare occasions, “purifying” rocks with clean water and the light of the full moon. And both the University of Arizona and the southwest region overall provided ample opportunities to view and purchase beautiful specimens of a wide variety of rocks from Earth. I spent hours in rock shops. I even began “looking up” what the authors of such rock-and-crystal-healing books recommended for “clarity” or “compassion” or other such subjective and emotional terms, open to interpretation from any reader. I read them with the slightest bit of skepticism, of course, but I read them!
Felt unfocused? Citrine. Need to reduce inflammation? Copper (and a host of others!). Reflect or absorb psychic attack? Black tourmaline, of course! Need to get past your bad habits in life? Pink quartz. And so on, ad infinitum.
This phase lasted for several weeks at its peak intensity, but my interested remained higher than average for much of that year. Indeed, I still find rocks and crystals staggeringly beautiful. When I am able, I still enjoy hours in a good rock and crystal shop, or at a museum’s geology exhibit.
Thus, during that 2013 phase I purchased many inexpensive specimens, and at one point, in a rather expensive jewelry store, I ended up purchasing two small raw pieces of turquoise. They were practically free, as the store sold them in bulk, because common hobbies in the area include metalworking, rock lapidary work, and jewelry making. But I overstayed my welcome asking questions of the store’s employee, who struck me at the time as a “true believer” in mystical rocks and crystals. She helped me pick out the exact turquoise, I gave her some copper wire to wrap the stone in, she did beautiful work, and I walked away satisfied with my necklace. As I transitioned out of this “crazy” period, I still wore the necklace quite often out of habit and convenience, but treated it more like an article of clothing than as anything with inherent properties which might help my overall health or well-being. Later I had the stone wrapped in silver around the copper wire pattern.
But over the years, I have come to love this rock necklace and my collection in a new light: they remind me of the unknown, rather than as objects of a belief system with thin evidence to support it. And I will always enjoy gazing at crystals, allowing my eyes to be incredibly fixated on a central point while the mind wanders creatively. Someday I may even have this particular necklace wrapped in a gold alloy.
But why wrap the rock in such metals? Why care?
For me, copper, silver, and gold are the most interesting trio of elements on the periodic table. Magnesium and calcium are neat, and the lithium-sodium-potassium triad*  may have its appeal, but it’s difficult to really feel like you’re touching those other elements because of a typical chemical conundrum: pure forms of many elements are too reactive to be safe, and in common safe forms they aren’t pure elements. Not so with these three almost-middle-of-the-table transition metals. They all can be touched, used, worn, and appreciated nearly 100% pure, and they’re all similarly shiny, difficult to obtain, electrically conductive, dense, and more. For me, they represent the “periodic” essence of the periodic table — and the universe itself — where the same properties and trends in the previous group of elements exist here, but with more variety (elements) and slight differences. All this while these three metals might be held in one’s hand, raw from the earth or mixed together in a refined alloy. This aspect continues to attract me, regardless of how much I may ever “believe” in any healing properties of crystals or raw elements. Such is true of the periodic table in general, the fundamental forces of physics, and much of the known world through modern science.
But that is what we know: that knowledge which is researched, confirmed, published and read about; which is taught, memorized, re-taught, re-learned and indoctrinated, later to be forgotten only before being rekindled again. What we don’t know is far more exciting, and the world of metals itself is as infinite as the depths of the ocean or the vast black nothingness of space. There is groundbreaking science being done often by metals and jewelry manufacturers in alloy composition, the crystallization structures of various rocks and other compounds, and by materials scientists who might find funding at universities or from such industries. I find the issue of orbitals in quantum chemistry particularly exciting, if difficult to understand, as it essentially means that no two molecules of the same name (whether simple water or complex cobalamin) are actually perfectly identical at any given moment. This might mean little in the context of modern biology’s simplistic reactions, but in the growing field of quantum biology, it makes quite a difference.
Back to rocks and crystals. We don’t know individual crystal structures for every type of alloy, although they might be predicted with some measure of confidence. We don’t know the position and velocity of the electrons in a sample of gold or copper or quartz (and supposedly we can never know both for any given sample). We don’t understand how gluons interchange and bind the protons and neutrons in the atomic nuclei of such a sample. And we don’t understand how our “four” forces (or three forces, if gravity is really an emergent property) might interact with each other energetically, or how energy might change or “flow” from one force to another. And we may never know such things!
We should remain open to crystal healing, among other ‘alternative’ ideas. There may be intrinsic properties in the different formations of crystals, bonds between molecules, or something about the individual atoms (or even electromagnetic forces or a more quantum aspect) of these crystals that ‘resonates’ with patients to help them heal. Of course, this also may largely be the placebo effect 2, which exists for all of us all the time, it may simply be more powerful with certain types of alternative healing as opposed to the rest.
We must always remember that what we don’t know vastly exceeds what we do know, and must resist becoming overconfident with our knowledge. Pride cometh before the fall.
Sometimes it is quite enjoyable to wear an interesting necklace. It’s like I’m some secret magical shamanic healer under the “regular” person clothes I wear! At other times, however, having a necklace with a big rock on it is annoying. Pushups. Sex. Running. Daily stuff. So very often, I do not wear it, and I do not allow the obsession with wearing it to consume my life or dictate how I leave the home.
But when I do not wear it for a time, I remember my necklace and what it symbolizes: it symbolizes my past belief in the unknown.
“Wait,” I ask myself. “Past belief? Don’t I still believe in the vastness of the unknown?” This question gives me pause. So of course, the obvious conclusion rises to the surface of the mind: this necklace symbolizes my permanent belief in the unknown. It symbolizes everything I don’t really understand about biology. It symbolizes that when I truly force myself to dig deep down into physics and philosophy towards the nature of the universe, I don’t really understand much of anything, and I must pause again. I must breathe. My curiosity and ignorance far exceed my knowledge.
But this necklace also reminds me that the universe began in a space far smaller than the rock itself, and that every subatomic particle in every atom in this rock is connected everywhere else throughout the universe. We don’t remind ourselves of that often enough.
So I usually do wear my rock necklace.
Thus I am not convinced that turquoise protects us, or that amazonite helps us communicate clearly and heals our emotions, or that citrine brings abundance and prosperity. Eric Ripert, world-renowned chef of the famous New York City restaurant Le Bernardin, comments on his spherical orb of shungite, a black, carbon-based stone. He believes that its “incredible protective and healing qualities—mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical—can be felt by even the most skeptical people” 3. I remain skeptical, if open minded. I remind myself that for most modern humans, simply increasing sleep or water intake might have more immediate, beneficial, and lasting effects than the rocks would! However, I could have an hour-long conversation with someone who believes in those aspects of rocks and crystals, because I find both the person and his beliefs fascinating.
This is because while I remain skeptical, I believe something to be obvious which others think crazy: I believe that what we don’t know greatly exceeds what we do know.I believe that more strongly than even the most powerful psychic rock crystal healer believes in her crystals. Will we ever know everything? For now, it’s a rhetorical question; we have far higher priorities in our lives. Perhaps our grandchildren may have to confront the theoretical ramifications of knowing “everything,” but I highly doubt most of us ever will.
The next time you see a human wearing a piece of rock or crystal, you may be forgiven for thinking that she might be crazy. But aren’t we all a little crazy sometimes?
Chances are, she just wanted to remind herself of something we all know deep inside: that we really don’t know much of anything.
If any reader might enlighten me as to the difference, when grouping things , between the words trio and triad, please contact me. This page may be useful.
Interested readers might note Jo Marchant’s book Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body. Studying the combination of alternative medicine practices with the placebo effect — which is the ability of our beliefs to help us heal — warrants its own book, let alone an essay or further investigation. Many may indeed waste their paychecks on “treatments,” hopping from one irrational solution to the next. But just as many patients may genuinely find relief in what ails them by these alternative medicines. If done so economically, then these treatments, combined with their most central beliefs, are likely doing more good for the world than not. Each must know her own path. But I digress!
Ferriss, Timothy. Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World (p. 269). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.