MEDITATIONS ON A CUTE VIDEO OF A HEDGEHOG WEARING A PAIR OF CROCS
Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself to this world
so worthy of rescue.
—Martha Postlethwaite, “Clearing”
A friend shared the video with me because they know I have a propensity for Crocs as practical as it is ironic. I get a lot of Croc memes in my DMs. But this one—a tiny hedgehog in tinier green crocodile-themed Crocs, complete with teeth and eyes, lounging on a fluffy pink hedgehog-sized couch—hit different and sent me spiraling into a psychedelic socio-ecological wormhole of schizophrenic interweaving metaphors that I am now going to attempt to unravel and share with you. In case you get lost along the way, let this loose thesis statement be your North Star: Everything is always happening too fast and becoming part of everything else and there’s nothing you can do to stop it, so maybe just slow down a little bit and take in the big gnarly whole for what it is and see the beauty of it where you can.
First off, so far as I know, popular culture only knows one hedgehog by name, and if you haven’t already thought of them, I reckon my archive of relevant pop knowledge is more ancient than I thought. Sonic the Hedgehog. He moves. Very fast. Hence his name. But did you know he was born with neither that color nor that speed? No. He was genetically and robotically experimented on by an ostensibly benevolent scientist who turned him blue and gave him crazy shoes that made him capable of traveling at the speed of light. And yes, he fights the evil Eggman, Dr. Robotnik, who we will get to in a moment. But do you know what else he does? He chases money. At blinding speed he collects coins, totally ignoring the beautiful landscapes that move elegantly behind him as he propels ever forwards, seeing only that which is behind and in front of him, living a two-dimensional life filled with greed and vengeance, and little more. And it is so easy for him to lose that money.
Sonic commits suicide if you leave the original game idling too long. He jumps off the screen and the game is over.
But so long as Sonic keeps moving, he is moving for good. Well, for good and for money. Sonic is fighting Dr. Robotnik, who is bent on destroying the environment and replacing it with his own robotic vision of Utopia. He is the ‘90s archetype of the evil anti-environmentalist, firmly of the belief that his (cybernetically enhanced) human self has the vision and talent to create a self-sustaining, self-perpetuating, perfect planet Earth. Of course, this comes by way of destroying all nature as it presently exists, rather than attempting to work in harmony with it.
Fast forward to now, where many of the scientists fighting to save the environment, or at least to save humanity within it, also believe that we can only survive by using technology to fight against nature and ensure human survival in a world that is out to destroy us. A world that, of course, we have built for ourselves. Our actions, macrocosmic and microcosmic alike, have created recombinant systems in nature that are actively destroying all manner of comfort we have invented for ourselves as a species. Carbon output from the 19th century onwards has combined with ‘80s wars against our ozone and the systematic destruction of oceanic ecosystems to create a world full of increasingly intense weather uncertainty. Monocropped staple crops genetically coded to withstand carcinogenic pesticides grown in artificially fertilized soils will inevitably collapse with increasing frequency as they are not given a chance to adapt to their environment naturally.
And it is all happening too fast. We cannot see it all, and we don’t have time to look at it all, and we wouldn’t be able to process it all, even if we tried, because our individual minds aren’t built for that kind of perspective. We have too much to do already, too much to think about, too much money to collect, too much work to be done, too much rent to pay, too many mouths to feed.
And on top of it all, I don’t know if it’s a biological human disposition, or something society has bred into us, but we are obsessed with being able to categorize everything. And while Earth has always been an infinitely indefinable network of processes and organisms interacting as a whole as much as in parts, the way we toy with genetics and the environment as a whole today, our capacity to define and categorize disasters, death, and life is ever-diminishing. We need to slow down our attempt to explain it all with the divisive language we are used to, and rather observe it, gently, slowly, as a whole.
All this to say, imagine if Sonic the Hedgehog wore Crocs instead of his super juiced speed-of-light shoes. Even in sports mode, he would see the crumbling Grecian ruins behind him and revel in the beauty of nature subsuming peak human architecture in the Aquatic Ruin Zone. He would see the blinding neon materialism of the Casino Nights Zone. He would weep at the brazenly destructive nature of the Chemical Plant Zone. He would wonder why he’d ever left the Emerald Hill Zone at all.
And imagine if you too donned Crocs and let what creature comforts still remain of this man-made ruin (and yes, for now there are still plenty) wash over you. Slow down, give your soles a massage and give your body and mind a chance to observe what is happening around us. Don’t freak out about how it’s way bigger than you (it is) and how there’s nothing you can do to stop most of it (there isn’t). Just. Slow. Down. And realize the world is infinitely more than you are, and that moving at a pace befitting a hedgehog donning Crocs is infinitely more fulfilling than moving at the speed of light, for both you and the universe you inhabit. Because you’re as much a part of it as it is of you. Not just in the woo woo spirit of the thing, but in the literal everything is bleeding into everything else more than ever right now and it’s just going to keep happening even faster. So… slow down, OK?
illustrations by Rachel Speck