Jared Grummer and Dancing Frogs @ Gillwood’s
“And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.”
“The Prophet.” Kahlil Gibran
One of the neatest aspects of spiritual gifts is that we never know the who, what, when, where, why and how about them. Recently I experienced an “epiphany” moment (actually 2.5 hours) three days after Epiphany. I could not have imagined John Muir with a Facebook page, and was reluctant to get involved, however, the hundreds of events, secrets revealed and reconnections made have been, in a word, astounding. Having said that, there was no way I could have known that one of the mysterious events would occur in the back room at Gillwood’s Restaurant in St. Helena.
The last time I saw Jared Grummer was when he completed my biology class. He was a bit scrawny, typically semi-interested in academia, but highly interested in nature. Nikos Kazantzakis, [ Zorba the Greek, The Last Temptation of Christ ] suggested that teachers build bridges for their students to cross over on their path to their future. In Jared’s case, however, his mom and dad (a California State Park Ranger/naturalist) did most of the bridge building and cultured a deep love of the biological world in Jared. I had ended the Biodesign Class before he became a senior and was therefore surprised to see his profile pop up on the BOFAW Facebook page. We exchanged brief messages with the idea that “sometime” we should get together and compare notes. As determined by fate, karma, or any number of mysterious forces, January 9 became the meeting date.
When we met I was a bit shocked. He had grown a foot taller, filled out his upper body and was a picture of great health. But that was just the external. Immediately after we were seated, it was obvious that his mind and spirit had also grown. He radiated an aura of self-confidence, ease, and enthusiasm.
He gladly filled me in on his amazing journey from room 103 out into the world. He started college at Humboldt State U., picked up a B.S. degree from Cornell and earned a Masters degree at San Diego State. He was admitted into the rigorous, and prestigious, biology PhD program at the University of Washington. But these were just the hors de oeuvres for the luncheon.
The main course proved to be a spiritual communion through sharing and exploring ideas of common interest. It was like we were playing a wonderful mental tennis match without competition or the need to win. He would serve up a concept or idea and I was obligated to respond. There were no mental or spiritual danger zones that had to be avoided. Linnaeus, Malthus, Mendel, OK. Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, “the universe making itself out of nothing?” No problem, maybe God did the same thing, who knows? Darwin vs. Wallace? After many years, I finally found someone who agreed that Wallace was probably closer to the solution of the great evolution mystery.
And then something very strange and wonderful happened. Jared was not aware of it but it was a combination of a double synchronicity involving déjà vu of an event that happened over 70 years ago. It involved Loren Eiseley having a discussion, with a Dr. Albert Dryer, about amphibian evolution. Dryer was an expert on the subject and Jared has chosen to earn a PhD in amphibian evolution. The synchronicity also connected Jared to the Biodesign Class and BOFAW
Excerpt: BOFAW, “Wayne.”
“Just at that moment a strange, wonderful dignity shone out of the countenance of Albert Dryer, and I knew the man he was. He bowed and sat down, and there were no longer the barriers of age and youthful ego between us. There were just two men under a lamp and around them a great waiting silence. Out to the ends of the universe, I thought fleetingly, that’s the way with man and his lamps. One has to huddle in, there’s so little light and so much space.” Loren Eiseley (The Star Thrower)
We were not huddled under a green-shaded lamp at Gillwood’s, but the subject matter was so similar to Eiseley’s event, 70 years earlier, that it had an eerie, even slightly creepy, feeling about it. Perhaps it was due to Dr. Dryer’s midnight encounter with some “4th dimensional” dancing frogs. The story had a huge impact on many Biodesigners and prompted me include “Wayne’s Story” in BOFAW. It was the scariest and most challenging chapter to write.
The conversation was exhilarating, but there was something deeper, more subtle that remained unspoken. In a nation that has become obsessed with materialism, with many young men focused on electronic devices, money, booze and sex, Jared has chosen a life of trying to unlock some natural mysteries and hopefully make a contribution to humanity. The life of a grad a student is often not unlike that of a monk or starving artist. He could have gone to work for a pharmaceutical company and be earning a 6-digit salary. Instead he has chosen to work toward something far more altruistic. While describing his research in the great North Cascade Mts., his face lit up as he said, “It is truly the place where the mountains meet the sky.”
There is a lot of evil in the world. We are saturated with bad news every day, yet the thought of Jared, camped out in the North Cascade woods, quietly studying the evolution of amphibians, gives me pause to smile and rejoice. Jared picked up the torch of man’s quest for meaning and in so doing became the dream of every parent and teacher; to go beyond what they had accomplished to improve humanity. He is studying evolution, but the twinkle in his eyes reveals that he fully realizes that it is only one tiny piece of the cosmic puzzle. Maybe one day, Jared will actually dance with the frogs.