I saw an alligator in a tree this morning. While taking my morning walk/jog through the wildlife refuge, I saw it. Just a nose and ping pong eyeballs poking through the branches, but the creature was certainly there. That is what my eyes saw. I am certain of it. But then something happened to alter my reality. Something whirred and clicked in my brain, switches were thrown in my cerebral cortex, and perceptual awareness kicked in, much to my dismay. Rods and cones in my eyes plastered the image of the alligator in the tree to the neurons covering my optic nerve, but those images were over-ridden by something called thought. I had no control over this bullying by the gray matter and the neurons that reside there in the outer layer of my brain. All neurons are not created equal, and the bullying neurons insisted that the alligator was not frolicking in a buttonwood tree, but was, instead, floating in a reflection in the Sanibel River.
But what would have happened if I had chosen to believe that the alligator was lounging in the tree?
Last week I stood at the Petit border that separates the neighborhoods of Gisenyi, Rwanda from the squalor of Congo. I could not see this border, but was told there was a line in the dirt that defined this border. I believed this even though I could not see it. I could not take one step over this line without committing an international crime, so I stood there and offered homage to the imaginary line in the volcanic soil while Mount Nyiragongo belched disapproval on the horizon.
I can’t believe there is an alligator in a tree, but I can believe that there is a line in the dirt that separates family from family, and brother from brother.
I wonder if I need to see a brain surgeon?
Two weeks ago I walked across a Canopy Bridge, stretched across the treetops in Rwanda’s Nyungwe Forest, and believed that I could fall to my death. My eyes told me that that I was 60 meters above the ground and I believed it. It scared me.
Why could I not believe that I was suspended a mere centimeter above the ground, or better yet, why could I not believe that I could join the Bird Nation and soar through the canopy, supported by nothing more than feathers attached to bone.
What can we believe, anyway?
All of this time I have been walking, when I could have been flying.
What if all of the trees have been really holding the skies up?
What if alligators lived in trees?