Friday, January 20, 2012

save yourself; save the frogs

Have you noticed when you hear folks make claims to a past life, they always claim the life of a king, or a famous and heroic warrior?  It's never:  "Oh, I was a scullery maid in 19th Century England."  Or, "I was a rapist in 18th Century France." 

Maybe those kinds of past lives are simply more forgettable?

Well here’s one for you:  I think I used to be a frog.

I swim laps for exercise several times a week, and I particularly like the breast stroke.  It has a certain meditative quality about it that I can’t explain.  I’ve heard other swimmers make similar claims.  Is it the muffled sounds of lapping water and the vague feel of it whisking past? Or perhaps it’s the big kick that culminates in the quiet of streamline that doesn’t occur in other strokes.  More likely, it’s the whole sensory package of it that causes something to click in the brain.  I find it hypnotic.  

Except, (and this is why I’m so bad at meditating) while I’m being “hypnotized,” I’m also thinking: “I feel great, but I bet I look ridiculous.  I hope nobody’s watching me from the stair machines up there.  A video would surely crush my feelings of grace and fluency under the image of me, an awkward frog, gallumping my way across this pool.” 

Then it comes to me:  “I do feel like a frog.  How odd.”  And I ask myself: “Have my bi-weekly water forays inadvertently accessed an ancient genetic memory of aquatic origins?” 

Clear and unmistakable evidence of meditation gone awry.  

This is when your meditation coach would say: “acknowledge that thought and bring your focus back to your breathing.”  Well, I don’t have a coach, so I did the next best thing. I googled the connection between humans and frogs. “Just for grins,” as my father would say.  

Wouldn’t you know it!  I am not the only person wondering over this—although I admit, my evidence arguably lacks the kind of genome based science that other people collected while I was busy gallumping in the pool.  It turns out the human genome closely resembles the genome of the western clawed frog, better known to the scientific circles in which I now travel as: Xenopus Tropicalis. 

We also share a similar skeleton. 


I found an article In Nature: The International Weekly Journal of Science, called “Frogs and Humans are Kissing Cousins,” by Alla Katsnelson.   Interestingly, Katsnelson dubs the Xenopus Tropicalis the “prince of frogs.” 

So my past life hails from royalty after all!  I knew it!

If you were disappointed that I didn’t include an image of me swimming the breast stroke earlier, here’s one now:

Taken from:

See how happy and peaceful I look?

Here’s another, although I think this one makes my legs look fat.

Isn’t it fascinating that I can’t remember the appointment I should be at right now, or what I made for dinner last night, yet I can remember the frog’s life I lived in a pond millions of years ago? 

If this all seems completely ridiculous to you, it sort of is, but never fear, there's always some moral or underlying message/question to be exploited.  I could choose from several, such as:

--Exercise relieves stress through physical exertion and meditative focus. Well, most of the time.
--Do we really have past lives or genetic memories?
--Behold the beauty and interconnectedness of the web of life.
--We are all one.

I was wondering which of these I should use to wrap this up when I had a terrible thought.  It happened while helping Olivia study about fungus for an upcoming science test:  What about the multitude of frogs that are dying from fungus in countries all over the world?  Many species have been pushed to extinction. 

Where does that leave me, the frog princess?  Over the years, I’ve put a lot of effort into worrying about the trade deficit, the national debt, climate change, resource wars, a flu epidemic, even a stray asteroid, but never once did I consider that we all just might itch ourselves to death due to a lethal and global fungal infection contracted through our genomic similarities to frogs!

Man, I wish I never went swimming.  Who wanted to be a princess, anyway?!

Suddenly, my “we are all one” message of global harmony has a completely different spin:  something along the lines of: “if you want to save yourself, save the frogs.”  If you do happen to believe in an interconnected web of life as I do, it makes sense, sure, but it’s unexpected isn’t it?  Not where I started out at all. 

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