By Dr. Bernard J. Hoothfellow
I was in a job that I did not like. The mornings were like a hell. I remembered a time when I was enthusiastic about work, when I would jump out of bed, ready to fly in to another day in the lab, working towards what I thought was some great new cure for some terrible disease that was afflicting my species.
But as time went on, I became skeptical. The company I was working for was not as interested in health as I once thought. They manufactured drugs for sale all over the world, selling to governments and healthcare systems that would take people in who could not figure out for themselves what was causing their own diseases. Sometimes their drugs worked, oftentimes they didn’t, or the drugs got rid of a few symptoms, but gave you a whole new load of side-effects which would make you feel even worse than before you started taking the damn things.
I was one of the drug makers. It feels like a different person doing it now, but I was involved in the manufacture, and sometimes the early stages of testing the drugs. And do you know what all legal drugs must go through before they are deemed safe for human testing? Animal testing. Before we dare try out our strange new inventions on ourselves, we test it on animals. Not only that, but we impair them first, meaning we give the animals the disease traits that we have, so that we can see if the drug takes away their symptoms or not. The whole idea of it now makes my stomach twist together and groan. What I saw, what I did – was cruel. Unethical, strange and twisted and insane, and yet working in a place like that, it was seen as normal. No one who works in an animal testing facility feels as if they are doing a terrible thing. Perhaps they realise it for a moment, but then the culture of “It’s the only way to help those in need,” comes in, the daily routine of work underground in those bright artificial lights with those strange behavioral tests. It is seen as if this is just the way things are, and people get on with it.
I still dream about that time. My guilt became worse after I left that place, thinking about all of those creatures I had harmed and abused in the name of good science. My only justification back then was that it was to help people, like my grandfather, who had a terrible disease of the brain. It was only later on that I discovered the company I was working for was never really into helping people. They were in to profit. First and foremost they were in the money-making business. And what happens when a business that profits from sickness is faced with a society full of healthy people? Then they will be out of business. Billions of pounds, salaries, livelihoods, all gone, because now people are healthy, and they don’t ask for pills or injections or any other strange thing.
I always wanted to test out the effect of our diet on the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. When I was interviewed for that job, I was told that this would be a good idea. Six months in, and I was told that it was not possible, because no money could be made from any studies like that. So I had to stick with the injections, disrupting the brain chemistry of mice with one drug and then trying to correct it with another, the one the company wanted to sell. They just wanted to get a product to market. That’s all it was.
And now after gradually falling out of love with science, I had to leave the drug industry, and I was now working in cleaning products. It would be me in the lab, working on different formulations that would clean surfaces in the most effective way. The things I was dealing with, the substances we were supposed to clean our kitchens with, was toxic. To drink a mouthful would be excruciating, and yet we would spray it all over our homes. It was another job that I was out of alignment with, but I still felt as if I still needed a job so that I could live.
But things were becoming bad, so bad that I was considering whether it was worth it at all. It was becoming a burden to just be alive, and I thought that perhaps I might as well end it all, because my life had become a joyless desert, where every step was as if I was wading through the sand up to my hips. I was ready to go.
I remember one evening, feeling a thorough deadness come over me. My life was lived to get up early, go to work, come home, eat, sleep and repeat. And I hated the work. There was no longer life in me for it. I had gotten in to science because of my fascination with nature, the way my mind would explode with intrigue at how all these billions of creatures and plants and insects seemed to be functioning all at once, and so perfectly. I wanted to understand it, at least a piece of it, I wanted to dive into it and get lost in that intelligence that had been here millions of years before I was born.
But, I had been taken away, into a realm of concepts and details and intentions that were not in keeping with the oneness and intelligence of nature that I used to marvel at as a child. And that evening, where everything changed for me, I walked out of my porch, into the air, and marched towards the forest.
It was evening, but not yet dark. Birds sang to me as I entered the woods, and suddenly my mind fell from its tough, constricted state in my head, down into my body where it untangled itself and relaxed, and as I breathed in I was back again in that communion. I hadn’t been in the forest for years. It was so close to my house, but it was as if I had forgotten about its existence for a while.
I just stood there and closed my eyes. Everything was perfect. I had no job, no concerns, no worries. Even my body was not a big deal. I was formless, around my body, engulfing the body, the substance of the whole forest, the whole world, the whole universe. It was all me, but not in the way I had been thinking of as “me”.
I don’t know how much time passed, but when I opened my eyes again it was dark, and in front of me there was a large man in the distance, across the trees, and he was staring at me.
I could only make out his shape, but he was silent and still and strongly built.
It didn’t seem real. No ordinary person is that still. He was just staring, without saying anything, not needing to say anything. I was still close to the edge of the forest, and I turned and left, and as I came back to my normal state, I started to walk quickly, hoping that the man would not follow me out.
I went back the next day, but stayed even closer to the edge. I just wanted to sense the trees, smell the air, involve myself in the unity of it all. But I was slightly on edge. The thought of that staring man with a face I could not see was haunting me. It was as if he was inside me, and I couldn’t get him out. And then I saw something move in the trees. It must have been a deer. I had not seen a deer in so long. It ran and disappeared and made a rustling that was so gentle and harmless. I stepped in. I couldn’t see it anymore. I stepped in again, this time taking a few steps more, just to see if I could catch a glimpse. The forest was dark, I could just see the bark of the tree trunks and the plants and leaves, and I was scanning, looking for another movement. And then I felt a large hand wrap itself around my mouth, and a voice whispered in my ear.
“What are you doing here?”
Taken from the book: