I’m no horseman. I do live on a horse farm with almost two dozen horses. There’s a pig, a cat, and some dogs, too. The horses have an outsized presence in our lives here at home. But, I am not a horseman.
My wife is a horseman. She’s been around them her whole life. She has a connection to them that is as deep as the universe in their eyes. It’s impressive to watch her work with them. Even the quotidian tasks of feeding and walking are nuanced with communication both large and nearly imperceptible. After all her years of experience, she struggles to put words to that bog deep tug a horse can have on us.
Still, it’s immediately clear to any person with a scintilla of empathy, and I think I fit that rubric, that there is something mythic and mystical about a horse. Maybe it’s the large, expressive eyes. Maybe it’s the power quilted with grace. Maybe it’s that tingle of fear we feel when we are next to them. Something happens to a human being when they are near a horse.
I’m not saying anything novel here. This connection has been appreciated and written about at length. Instead of exploring what “the outside of a horse” might mean “to the inside of a man” (Churchill), I’m more interested in how we humans might find that mythic, mystical magic in other humans.
I’ve written elsewhere about the unseen connections that exist between trees. I’ve come to think that a similar mycelial network might exist between humans. Not in the strict sense of that word although ideas about synchronous gut flora among cohabitating people is interesting. I mean more in the sense that whether through geography, shared self-interests, or something much, much older, we might have a similar connection with another human as we do with a horse or a tree.
I’ll pause here to exclude dogs. Through selection and wonderful happenstance, dogs are simply perfect human companions. I’m interested in exploring something wilder and more dangerous.
Imagine the times you’ve met someone and known immediately that you would be friends, or enemies. What made that “gut instinct” (see?!) happen? Is it what they were wearing? Perhaps briefly. Is it what they said? That’s part of it. But, we know it as an unbidden response from our basest of our brain matter.
Across the depths of time and amidst all the stories handed down and even long forgotten, this person in front of us has absorbed whatever tiny particles still exist of that long ago. Maybe it’s DNA. Maybe it’s a carbon electron spinning ever so slightly faster. Maybe it’s a quark that’s here instead of over there. That’s the science of it maybe. More interesting is the distillation effect of our collective memory which has concentrated components that are compatible or incompatible into this one being.
We want to reason our way around these things. We want to “think clearly” about the decisions we make about the people we surround ourselves with. And we can. We aren’t powerless. However, we do not fully comprehend the power of the mythic past for which we are vessels nor how that power can ever so slightly leak out into our actions.
Like that feeling when we see a horse. We might be repelled. We might be attracted. Yet, we are never ambivalent. Our reactions to other humans are similar. I suggest that all of that is at its root a narrative of our being distilled down into an effervescent speck of time running headlong into a similarly charged speck within another person. Like two black holes smashing into each other. With that mass of myth, it’s no wonder that those moments can have a tremendous gravity around which we orbit spinning off the next story.
Whose myth have you spun off of today?