Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jurassic Office Park

As I carefully peer around the giant palm leaf -- a great fan spreading out before me -- I keep my eyes facing forward. I am desperately in search of any sudden movement. The lush green vegetation closes in, providing some feeling of safety if not also hiding my bulk from any unwanted observers. In front, the watering hole opens like a chunk torn from the forest canopy.

I am -- in this daydream -- am a herbivore of some unknown type. My size, shape and girth are perhaps issues that I can not fully grasp yet. I can not know, and it is not really helpful to ask for assistance in that type of self-analysis anyways. Ultimately I suppose it doesn't matter; big or small, fast or slow, I am what I am, and in this case I am just another dinosaur plodding around an ancient thickly overgrown jungle. One of many.

My problem, it would seem, is that endless sense of being hunted. One that I cannot get away from. You have to drink to live, and I always feel so vulnerable when succumbing to my needs. Around the watering hole lurks trouble, big trouble. I'd avoid it, but ultimately I have no choice in the matter.

You see, in this current perspective of mine, built around a wild analogy, I am a producer. Well, to be fair, more of a thinker, a sort of lowly worker bee. You know, one of those poor souls that just builds things, day after day.

This particular analogy -- as any good black and white idealist view of the world portrays -- sets up the creatures in its realm as either thinkers or doers, producers or consumers. You know, those people that do things for a living, and those that make lists of things to do. It's a fairly common breakdown. For some it's about getting it done, and for others it is about saying it is done. The split is about how you spend your day: doing things, or telling people to do things.

Those dinosaurs that live entirely on plant matter are clearly herbivores. They take from the world around them and that sustains them. They work hard to extract the nutrients from the vegetation. They focus on something, going at it day after day, working their way towards getting it done. In that way, they 'build' up their presence. They do things. They form the bulk of the food chain, and maintain a balance with the vegetation, which on its own would erupt into chaos. Herbivores are the staple on which everything runs.

The other guys, you ask? Why carnivores of course. They live by virtue of hunting and consuming herbivores, living off our backs, so to speak. They come in a wide range of sizes and appetites, but one thing is certain, for most herbivores the present of a carnivore is a bad thing. Well mostly, in my analogy I guess as a herbivore there are endless instances of yourself, enough to feed an army of carnivores. Thus they can come back again and again to refresh their needs, all at your expense. Lucky us.

Encounters are draining, but ultimately herbivores keep on munching until they retire. They have to, it is an endless cycle. An unlucky herbivore will face many encounters with carnivores of all shapes and sizes. That's just how it goes.

Herbivores are big and slow, while carnivores are culturally often called A-types, you know those fast moving persons that are always on the prowl. Shifting around the office, looking for their next encounter, their next big thing to 'get done'. The entrepreneurs, the executives, the politicians, all of them 'doers'. "Get it done at any cost", goes the refrain. "Just do it" is the commercial version. We live in a period where the end justifies everything, just so long as you don't get caught. "Carnivore" captures that mentality perfectly. It's all about consumption, isn't it?

Money makes the world go round, and carnivores are the ones living off the spinning. Being at the top of the food chain, one good kill is enough to rest on for quite a while. Herbivores face an endless destiny grazing the vegetation and chewing it down into energy; carnivores come along and reap the benefits. It's a brutal world in this analogy, not unlike the one out there.

I like this perspective, crazy as it is, because its explains why it is that carnivores always believe that they are above everyone else. It is not, as they would like us to believe, that they are working harder than the rest of us in processing the vegetation. Nope. No crappy lettuce for them. Raw meat has way more nutrients. But you have to meet enough of them, trying to justify why they're better and more important than the herbivores to get the full appreciation of their ego, hunger and falsehoods. Whether you are in the room with a T-Rex, or just a newbie raptor, you are never far away from the platitudes and the drooling. Their famous last words, for you at least, always seem to be "trust me". Delivered with a hint of steak-sauce-breath; that's when you "know" you are in trouble. Chomp!

Most of the really clever carnivores look to stake territory and corral a clump of herbivores to sustain themselves. The realistic herbivores see this as a bargain with the devil, the foolish ones think its some form of partnership. Carnivores, it seem, never miss a chance to feed, unless of course it's only because the herbivore is far too puny to be worth the effort. Not, as you might have guess, the best foundation for a partnership, is it?

Carnivores can hunt individually or in packs, they can be surprisingly pleasant when they are trying to lure you in. You are after all their meal-ticket, generally causing a great burst of effort, on which they can sit back and relax for a while. Herbivore resumes talk a lot about hanging around the same watering hole year after year, while carnivores roam over vast distances. Often carnivores overfeed on an area, forcing themselves to move on to the next feeding ground. Sometimes it's just competition from others that sets them forth. They rarely like to 'stick it out'. If you wait long enough, they tend to go away.

I make a dash for the water, the hairs on the back of my neck standing high. Whoosh, another brief encounter with a carnivore, but this time I am lucky. I manage to get back into the canopy just in time to avoid losing too much of myself.

Getting sick of being stuck down on the food chain, I once tried the omnivore thing. If you are a herbivore, you can never really leave your nature. You're always drawn back to compassion, to doing things for yourself, to not wanting to bully and yell at other people, and to trying to find the time to get it right, just for the sake of getting it right. But that constant life on the run, feeding a dizzying array of mad chomping machines, with all of their cars, their mansions and their great big piles of treasure, makes one at least peer enviously up the chain towards the next level. So I crossed the line, jumped in, and did a brief omnivore phase. I tried. But in the end, all it did was give me indigestion. I should have guessed. Some things were not meant to be.

After that I've come to accept my grazing and constant chomping. I am -- I admit -- a herbivore, and I don't really see that about to change anytime soon. My fate is a lifetime of grass and a whole lot of quick dashes in hopes of saving my ass from being consumed. It's not great, I would like a mansion and a Ferrari, but if I manage to pay the bills, eat reasonably well and avoid starving in my old age, I'll have to consider my life to have gone pretty well.

Since I'm not about to grow fangs and claws, I guess the only question is: how large a herbivore am I? Something huge like a stegosaurus or even a massive brontosaurus? Or am I just one of those little ones,you know the ones with the names you always quickly forget at the museum, like piddly-little-saurus or squished-a-saurus or something tiny like that? If I figure it out, I'll let you know someday, just as soon as I've dashed for more water ...