On a more serious note, you may not have known that Plato–yes, the philosopher–traveled around the Mediterranean quite a bit before he settled down in Athens for some Socratizing. That’s right. Plato was a backpacker, in his way. You can read about it at the brand new and improved World Hum.
Back when I was still working in bookstores, I stumbled across a strange little book. It was called “Talks with Trees: A Plant Psychic’s Interviews with Vegetables, Flowers and Trees“. At that point, I’d written about Klingon Karaoke, UFOs, Hare Krishnas and Extremo the Clown, so this seemed up my alley. I did a little digging, figured out where the author lived (Southern California), and gave him a call. As it turns out, there’s not a huge market for interviews with plant psychics, so I’ve included highlights below. You can also find excerpts of interviews with a purple potato and a disgruntled redwood here.
Frank Bures: I picked up your book and had a look through it. It’s pretty interesting. You talk to plants.
Leslie Cabarga: Well, I was doing psychic readings, channel readings, for years on people, and developing that. Then it occurred to me that plants are living creatures, and why not try doing it with plants? So I decided I would try to collect 50 interviews with plants and make it into a book. I’d authored about a dozen books before that on graphic design.
FB: You’re a graphic designer?
LC: Uh huh.
FB: So, when you have a conversation, how does it does it start?
LC: It usually feels kind of silly. And I pretty much always have doubts in my mind—you know, will this work? But it pretty much always does. I just start stroking a branch.
FB: Do you talk out loud to them?
LC: Yeah. Both out loud and in my mind, sometimes. It doesn’t seem to make a difference. And of course it’s just impressions that I hear from them. In the book, I chanced upon Pan.
LC: Pan, the God of nature.
FB: The real Pan?
LC: Well, who knows? I think so.
FB: When you’re on the street talking to a tree, are there people walking by?
LC: Oh, that’s in my mind.
FB: You don’t go up in the middle of a crowd and start talking to a bush?
LC: I mean, I have. I was in a restaurant once and I sort of stroked the bush. But again it’s just in my mind.
FB: I see. Now, you brought a head of lettuce home and interviewed it. Did you eat it?
LC: Afterwards, yeah. And of course, I may have asked questions about that. I asked several plants how they feel about being eaten. And that’s when they’ve said things like, there’s pride in being selected to be eaten, and we realize that this is our function.
FB: Do you mow your lawn?
LC: I’ve thought about that. I do. And sometimes I’ve said to them, “Sorry about that!” In general, their attitude is, “We don’t like it, but we respect what you feel you need to do.” So they’re very accommodating in that sense.
In my decade or so as a writer, I’ve interviewed hundreds of people. Many brilliant. Most interesting. And a lot with insights I’d never have come to myself. But there are a few whose brief appearance in my life has, for some reason, stuck. Here are some of the people whose words and ideas come back to me most often, and at strange times (in alphabetical order):
Billy Collins on in-flight poetry
Junot Diaz on nuclear blasts
Niall Ferguson on empire
Elizabeth Gilbert on the one story that can stop your heart
Pico Iyer on the noosphere.
David Lynch on chicken heads.
Chuck Palahniuk on pushing the river (sadly, not online)
Richard Rodriquez on how only further confusion can save us
Binyavanga Wainaina on finding hope in small things (also not online)
There are others too, but ten is ten.