The short autumn season passes into winter quickly; the hours of sunlight shorten and the botanicus family spends many of its hours in dormancy. Because they rely upon photosynthesis for energy production, nighttime naturally prompts sleep, their diurnal pattern of wakefulness and sleep governed by the sun. Completely and comfortably reliant on the natural world, even using fire as a technology is something they never do. They do not hunt or eat meat, so the matter of “cooked or raw?” has never occurred to them.
In fact, technology per se is unknown to most of them, since only Jens, Saha, Kaya and Karma spent any time within Homo sapiens technological space. They are so well adapted to the natural world they have largely forgotten the experience of grow lamps, electricity, and enclosed interior spaces conceived and built by human hands. Industry, the organized fabrication of objects and collection of materials and the making and using of tools is irrelevant to their lives; the closest anything comes to it is decorating stones, and for them even that activity, with for the exception of Karma, is not about the result, but the experience of the creative process itself and their relationship with stone.
Botanicus is not materialistic. The idea of possession for possession’s sake, let alone accumulation and its myriad deleterious effects, does not concern them. In an essential way, botanicus is radically free; freedom from hunger leads to freedom from desire and greed; freedom from desire and greed leads to freedom from aggression, violence and the endless succession of painful suffering inflicted on oneself and others. From Pierre’s point of view, and his objective, botanicus has cut what Pierre’s father Leonard Gittleman referred to as “the chain of dependent origination,” Buddhist teachings on Samsara, the origins of suffering, and its propagation.
The exception to this is Karma, who alone suffers the constant torment of his desires and attachments. His brain’s hyper-active left hemisphere, a neurological master of imaginative deception and denial, leads him astray. He spends countless hours in isolation, concocting elaborate theories, explanations, and confabulations about how and why things happen the way they do. Hearing what are his own thoughts but believing they are not his but are delivered to him from great beings outside of himself, he’s tortured by his inability to convince others of the absolute truth of his experience. His connection to grounded reality, the more honest reality of his right hemisphere, becomes increasingly tenuous. Karma is slipping into delusional madness.
In the age of Homo sapiens, Karma might have been considered a great sage or elevated spiritual leader, perhaps even the founder of a popular religion based upon the wisdom and instructions of invisible, all-knowing great beings who control the world’s destiny. In the dawning age of botanicus, however, this does not happen. To the contrary, his family accepts his eccentricities, but is not influenced by them, essentially because Karma’s babbling about invisible Great Beings makes no sense to them, literally. They don’t have any idea what he’s talking about; they don’t care about his ideas, but they do care about him.
Karma is results oriented. The others are process oriented; their brain’s relationship-dominant right hemisphere effectively inhibits their solipsistic-dominant left. While highly intelligent, they spend their time engaged in connection with the present moment and each other. While Karma anxiously seeks more – more proof, more evidence, more answers – the others relax into the experience of enough.
Besides the newest baby, three others are expected within six months; the small family is growing. Earth’s evolving atmosphere seems particularly well-suited to the health of botanicus; they grow quickly, especially when sunlight is ample, and their overall health is robust. Their attention is broad, but can be tightly focused when necessary, which happens when they gather in ritual activity. Within the confines of thick, green forest foliage, its growth stimulated by light, warmth, and carbon dioxide, botanicus are almost invisible, their green skin mirroring the appearance of dappled sunlight on trunks, branches, and leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs.
The creek at the bottom of the valley continuously runs clear with cool water descending from the mountains, which gather the greater share of moisture when it rains. A clearing on the creek’s western shore is a favorite gathering place for the group. From there they enter the water, where they sit, swim, and play. They have mastered the many sounds of the creek, from the turbulence caused by rocks obstructing water to the soft dripping of water off a ledge. One game they play is creek ventriloquism, fooling each other about the source of creek sounds. They all close their eyes, mimic sounds one by one, and then try to guess if the sounds are real or imitations. The youngest are so adept at this that all the others are often fooled, a matter of great amusement. While bedding down in the forest, imitating the distant, burbling creek or rain splashing on leaves produces gales of laughter.
And yet, for all their outward frivolity, botanicus are deep; they are not deep thinkers, rather, they are deep feelers. Able to relax fully into the moment, interactions with each other and the world, stimulates profoundly affective emotions, all of which their skin displays. Thinking itself does not require words, sentences, or language. At its core, thinking is the process of acquiring sensory information such as visual observations or sound detection, identifying patterns, and generating a physical or emotional response. In this sense all animals think, and botanicus is no exception.
Karma, on the other hand, is a deep thinker, and to immerse himself in his thoughts, what he believes is the transmitted wisdom of the invisible great beings he hears talking to him, he climbs up the rocky hillside above the creek and sits on a high ledge overhanging the creek below. He gazes skywards into the azure blue heavens, the supposed home of the great beings he imagines. He wonders, “How do I get there, where you are? I want to sit among you, to join you. How do I do that?”
“You can do it,” replies the voice in his head, “it’s easy. You need to fly into the air, where you will rise up to join us.” “How do you mean?” asks Karma. “I will fall.” “You have to believe,” the internal voice replies, “perhaps you don’t believe hard enough to try.” Karma’s skin turns deep brown, a shame response to his internal dialogue, and he finds himself standing at the edge of ledge. “You have to believe to try hard enough,” the voice repeats. “I do believe,” he whispers, and steps into the air beyond the ledge. As he does so, from across the creek he hears “AhhhhhOoooooBbb, AhhhhhOoooooBbb, AhhhhhOoooooBbb“ echo in his direction.
His lifeless body is discovered the next day by Distant Thunder and Morning Dew. Karma’s eyes, once animated with movement, stare blankly into the distance and are still. From his head, which has struck a rock at the edge of the creek, a rivulet of blood seeps into the muddy bank. Thunder and Dew make their way back to the rest of the group and tell them what they have discovered. Tears flow copiously; the family recovers Karma’s body and carries him back to their encampment by the creek. There they gather in a circle surrounding Karma, begin cooing and singing, and stroking his skin. Although he is dead, his photosynthetic skin’s chloroplasts are still responsive, and respond to changes in light or touch. Where their fingers touch, colorful afterimages remain and slowly fade.
After hours of ritual, they carry his corpse to the creek and submerge it in the current, which slowly carries it downstream and out of view. Over time, as the actions of water and bacteria relentlessly work their magic, his body decays. His botanicus DNA merges into the eddying stream where it is carried, finally, to the open sea, effectively seeding the waters of the world with building blocks of life not seen the history of the planet for a billion years.