Being a creature that looks ugly to many does not make an easy life. In Joe's case, he thinks that at least it made him "humble towards other ways of living than my own", he keeps saying, and also to "refrain from boasting" (have I ever met someone less humble and more boasting than Joe???) "Being humble is really important, you know", he then usually goes on, "because at any time you can meet a stranger who looks like a reptile and two minutes later he turns out to be a relative of Keith Richards". "Yes, being open towards the unexpected is really THE successful strategy for survival for us swamp beasts", he ends this sermon.
But let me tell you the story about an encounter that really caught Joe on the wrong fooot:
Not far away from his home swamp, a man in his mid-50s was sitting and meditating on the banks of one of the contributing rivers. Joe had never seen him before. Neither had the man seen anything like Joe in his life. But different from most other unwanted trespassers, he just stayed seated and stared at him - a dim, startled flicker of anxiety in his eyes that soon vanished again, as if he had suddenly realized that he was safe. Joe soon found out why.
"Howdy", Joe said, "what are you doing out here on my land?" "I am connecting to the cosmos", the man replied. "What for?" Joe asked back "Oh, I am drawing my food from there", he said. "Your food? You mean, you are like having dinner here? Can I join?" "Not really", said the man and smiled at Joe, "but then, yes, in a way. I am sure you won't understand". "Uh, I know everything about eating", Joe said, "and I have met lots of scientists who would not notice that I haven't been to school". Humble creature he is ...
"Well then, my dinner here is coming from out of space", the man said. "Oh, you are a philosopher", Joe responded happily, "I also like to ponder about the big questions. About nature, life and death, and the real reasons behind things, and what kind of beings we are, all that. Outer space as the source for all life on Earth. Never without a certain attitude in the back of my mind, of course". "Sure", the man said,"just like the old saying goes: 'In this latitude you need an attitude' ". And smiling at Joe, he continued: "I knew you wouldn't understand".
Joe felt a bit insecure all the sudden (which rarely ever happens) : "A dinner from out of space can only be of philosophical nature, unless you have some extraterrestrial catering service". "I mean what I said", the man answered. "There's no catering service and I never eat or drink anything else". "You mean you do not eat and drink?", Joe asked, "but then you are going to die". "I have been living like this for the last four years", the man responded.
"OH NO, you can't fool me". Joe was getting angry. "Nobody can live without eating. Your stomach is going to collapse. Your kidneys are going to collapse. Your whole system will break down. You are going to dry out in a few days. Have you never seen people on TV that are on hunger-strike? That's silly. You are trying to pull my leg".
"Well, if you see it like that, may I just continue to sit here for a while and reflect about the beauty of nature?" the man responded mildly. "And I am not going to pull your leg anymore, promised".
"OK, just do as you please", Joe growled, turned around and left. He was still a bit angry when he told me about this incident a few days later and asked me whether I had heard such complete nonsense before. "In fact, I have", I responded, "it is a puzzling assertion. It is completely beyond our understanding how such a thing should be possible".
"It is impossible!" Joe rumbled. "If being open towards the unexpected is such a successful survival strategy for you beasts... " I started cautiously. "YES?", Joe snapped. "... you should have asked him a simple question", I continued. "Which one?" Joe responded.
"Can you prove it?" I answered.