"Bula Bula! Coffee ready?" Louis calls as he swings his dinghy alongside. Bula Bula means hello in Fijian. Louis is getting ready to go to Fiji and wants us to tag along so he has been teaching me Fijian.
"Bar-Rae-Wa!" I shout. This means, "I'm ready," as in what a man says to a girl to indicate he is ready for sex.
"I'm goin' right back," Louis laughs, halting half-way over the rail. "You guys listen to the radio? No? Hey man. you can't even believe it."
"What's up?" I ask as he comes down into Moira's cabin.
"New Caledonia's finest," Freddy says, pouring him a steaming cup of coffee. "Want a croissant, too?"
"Sure. Great. Thanks." we sit down at the dinette. He sips at the coffee, barely holding back on his hot news. "First thing on the news this morning. You'll never guess."
"You're right, I'll never guess." I say, grinning.
"War!" he says and my face falls. "Argentina has declared war with England over the Falkland Islands and England is sending its Navy down there."
"Argentina? The Falklands?" It's too bizarre for him to have made a story like that up before coffee. I think of the book 1984. The continual strange little wars in unlikely places with the enemy. Wars to improve a sagging economy and bolster power positions. Louis is smiling, enjoying the puzzlement on our faces. He listens to the Voice of America and the Australian Broadcasting Service several times a day and loves to come over and drop little tidbits of news on a surprised and ignorant audience. We enjoy it, too, so we usually overreact a bit to encourage him. This time, however, all I can think of to say is, "Argentina? The Falklands? The English NAVY?"
"So what are you guys doin' today? How bout we make a run on Tit Beach?" he wiggles his eyebrows at Freddy. "Me and George are gonna go over for awhile 'n watch the little lovelies tan."
I glance at Freddy and we silently decide to ask him. "We're going on an expedition inland today, down to Plum to visit Yves. We're going to spend the night there. What about you guys keeping an eye on Moira and feeding the monster cat while we're gone?"
"Sure, no problem," he answers. He looks down into his coffee cup as it registers on him that leaving the Moira in his hands for the night is a serious gesture.
"What time are you heading for the beach?" I ask.
"Don' know. Maybe 11 or so." Louis sips his coffee.
"Could you run us ashore so we can leave the dinghy behind Moira while we are gone?" The idea is, someone on shore or another boat will see the dinghy and think we are aboard. We also will leave on the cabin lights and maybe the TV.
"Not even to worry. Hey, you know what I heard?" he asks.
"Not another war!" Freddy groans.
"No. I got it from a good source. That ORSTOM place is a front for a big French spy operation."
"You got spies on the brain." I laugh.
"Yeah? Well, a mutual friend says more'n half the guys over there are card carrying communists." Louis picks out another croissant.
"Give me a break, Louis, how many spy organizations do you think are in New Caledonia?"
"Three." He answers promptly. I stare at him for a minute. Then I look out the porthole at the ORSTOM research vessel Coriolis tied up to the wharf. It actually does have a forest of antennas, most of which I can't identify.
"Well, anyway, what would they spy on out here in the middle of the Pacific?" I want to see what else he has found out.
"They don't need no excuse. Like the guys over there fishin' this mornin', they're just watchin'. Or maybe they've got some projects goin out here. You never know." He acts like he's still got more information about this but I really don't want to know about it, so we get back to discussing Tit Beach until he finishes his coffee and heads back to the Dragon.
At ten, Yves' car drives up on the dock behind the ORSTOM research vessel. I get in the dinghy and motor over to Dragon to tell Louis we're ready. He comes by a few minutes later and we head in to the Pilot's wharf with our overnight bag. It is a warm fall day and the upper end of the Baie de la Moselle smells a bit ripe from the sewer outfall.
Yves is waiting for us, casually inspecting one of the big, heavy black Pilot boats. He greets Freddy with a kiss and I pass up the overnight bag and then climb the ladder to take his hand. Danielle is waiting in the car next to the Pilotage. She gets out and kisses both Freddy and me. Freddy and Danielle settle in the back and I sit in front, next to Yves.
We drive east, circling Noumea, past the big Nickel smelting plant with its foul reddish black smoke and black sludge landscape. New Caledonia used to be the third largest nickel producing country in the world. Now it is way down on the list, maybe 15th or 16th. The world price of nickel is low and the labor and shipping costs from here are too high to be competitive. The nickel operation here is losing money. Today, only one smoke stack is putting out its evil black smoke.
"I wouldn't like to work there," I muse as we go by.
"Of course not," Yves replies. "When I was a boy I can remember walking by the plant one day. There is a laboratory to analyze samples. I stopped and looked inside the glass door to the laboratory. The men inside were all dressed in white and everything was very clean and beautiful. I decided at that moment that this was for me. I would be a chemist and be neat and clean. None of the filth for my family."
"Well, what made you change to biology?" I ask.
"But I never did, I am a chemist," he responds as we turn onto the highway and accelerate.
"A chemist? Then how did you get to be director of the Aquarium of Noumea?"
"I was working for ORSTOM as a chemical oceanographer and the position became available. I am also a diver and have had some experience in public relations so they decided to make me the director of the Aquarium." We reach an open, four-lane road and he accelerates. The mountains of New Caledonia rush towards us, green and sharp.
His mention of ORSTOM makes me think of Louis and the Communist spy theory. Yves? A communist? No. Definitely not. Freddy and I have become very good friends with the Pilots who guide the big ships into Noumea. It is a private business, not a government one, and the Pilots are the nicest bunch of guys we've met in the Pacific. They have known Yves since they were all boys together and they like him and respect him. They are also very anti-communist and in a small place like this they would certainly know if Yves was socialist/communist.
Besides, Yves ideas are decidedly not Communist. He is an intellectual, a scientist, and he lives a very independent life, has a reasonable financial holding and is a very practical man.
We turn south, surrounded by New Caledonia's lush countryside. We drive past a patchwork of natural mangroves, a patch of lowland forest, still black from a recent fire, and cattle pastures with houses and fences that look very French. The road is excellent, black-top, smooth, well constructed and maintained. New Caledonia has the finest roads I've seen on any Pacific island. We zoom past a new and very modern looking school and on south towards Plum.
"God, it's insane," I say thoughtfully.
"What is insane?" Yves asks.
"Oh, I heard another Radio Australia newscast about New Caledonia and the racial strife business. They insist on telling the world this is a racial issue between the poor black downtrodden independence fighters and rich white, colonialist anti-independence French Settlers."
I gesture at the school as we pass, "Nowhere else in the Pacific Islands will you find schools like that one - filled with children of all colors. Or roads like this enabling people to travel freely anywhere in their cars. Or the excellent public transportation. There in that car - a well dressed black woman driving a BMW. You won't see that in the Solomons or PNG. The Melanesians here don't speak baby-talk, like they do in the other Melanesian countries. They are well educated, well dressed, and the island is practically deserted by Caribbean standards. What, maybe 4 or 5 people per km??" We drive on in silence.
"I think there is a very small clique in the Australian and the New Zealand media service pushing this thing for all its worth."
"Yes, this is true, but why are they doing it?" Yves asks.
"I have no idea. But it's so stupid it's a wonder they can get away with it. Imagine if they applied the same ideas to New Zealand or Australia. The right-wing English Settlers pitted against the poor Maori or Aborigine peoples who are struggling for their independence and to get rid of the arrogant white settlers. In Australia the early settlers actually hunted the Abos for sport. They committed genocide in Tasmania." Yves says nothing and we drive on through the lovely forests and pasturelands.
I shake my head. "I read one article in an Aussie journal. It said members of the FLNKS freedom fighters were flying to Libya for an independence conference. If Abos or Maori's went to a Libyan independence conference, the Aussie press would be quick to say they were terrorists taking guerilla training."
"Perhaps the cultural association can help change that." Yves passes another car, "and help make everyone better educated on their joint cultural heritage."
A French looking cathedral and farm emerges through the trees and stands of bamboo. Danielle tells Freddy it is a monastery and they produce fresh milk for Noumea.
The Cultural Association. The counter attack against whoever or whatever is pushing racial hatred here. If Yves can really get it going it might work. There is already a cultural association here. The key is to get it into active service against the hate mongers.
"I see the key to the problem as an understanding of behavior zones." I say. "The basic image is of the island as a living entity working to take advantage of what the world has to offer. The ultimate goal is the creation of a self-aware island able to track its needs through time. We must show why internal conflict will be a disadvantage to everyone."
We drive quickly along a slow, winding river. Yves is a good driver. Not too fast, not too slow. The foliage retreats from the road so we can see the whole valley. "Oh? What is this behavior zone?" Yves glances at me.
"Behavior zones extend Minkowski's world-line thinking to animals," I see Yves does not understand so I explain, "Hermann Minkowski was Einstein's math teacher. He suggested, from a longer interval of awareness, planets could be thought of as doughnut-shaped spirals in space."
"Oh yes, I remember from philosophy class." Yves nods.
"I saw a drawing of Earth in Scientific American showing its electromagnetic field and its interaction with the solar wind. The planet is actually a long comet-shaped entity not far different from what Minkowski postulated. And if we could draw in the interactions of the planet with the moon and the sun and the other planets, and portray it over a period of a year, the whole Earth would look very different, indeed.
"The idea stretches a 'being' from the focus we see in our human interval of awareness to include the zone a being influences.
Suppose we look at a squid swimming on a reef. If we take a photograph of the squid with an electronic flash, we get an image of what it looks like over an interval of less than 1/10,000th of a second. We might say it is an accurate and clear image of the squid. But it would not tell us very much about the animal or what it does or is doing. In fact, because squid can change their shape and color and skin texture so dramatically, a single 1/10,000th of a second photograph would not be an accurate image of the squid at all.
"If we could take a time exposure picture of the squid over an interval of 1000 seconds. We would then have a picture of a tube-shaped animal extending over the reef in a winding pattern as the squid tracks here and there seeking food or shelter." I am trying to demonstrate this with my hands when I realize Yves is keeping his eyes on the road.
"If we could take a picture of the squid's movements over a period of 1000 days we would see the squid is an intricate, net-shaped being covering the whole reef. The net is the squid's behavior zone. It hovers in the water above the coral, trapping small fish and other creatures in its web. A behavior zone describes a creature in terms of what it can reach as opposed to its form in a brief instant of time." We are now driving up the side of Mont Dore.
"Yes, I see, go on," Yves says.
"That's about it. Except, of course, we actually do see behavior zones in some animals - like branching corals. Acropora solidifies its behavioral movements as its skeleton and this results in tubular branches showing its life's history. So do plants." We round a corner and reach the crest of the hill. Yves pulls over to the side.
"The source," Yves says, opening the door. We all get out of the car and walk over to a stone basin with a little trickle of water flowing into it. "Plum's own mineral water. It is right from the island, pure and of excellent quality." I sample it right from the little waterfall and it is excellent.
Freddy, however, is not interested in tasting it. She and Danielle walk to the other side of the road to see the view. Yves and I join them. We survey the island from the mountain-top, looking south to see mountain after mountain with not a soul living on them. So much unoccupied land. So little population pressure. So absolutely idiotic to have a bunch of people fighting over such a vastly underpopulated island.
"Behavior zones," Murmurs Yves, looking at the forests.
"It gives a very different view of life forms. A tree may show us one aspect of its long term behavior, we might see exactly how it reaches into the sky, but it's hard to realize the behavior zone of the tree extends beyond the tree itself."
"Oh? How is that?"
"Well, the tree is a concept, a way of behaving, and it is not limited to an individual tree at a particular moment. The tree-behavior is also present in the seeds of the tree, blown about on the winds, carried here and there over the island, reproduced again and again by new trees forming in their appropriate niches. To visualize the behavior zone of the tree-concept you have to percieve the whole distribution of that species over this and other islands and the thin threads of seeds connecting them all together."
We stand there looking at the scenery and I point out to sea, "In Papua New Guinea, I realized that corals look very differently from this perspective. I saw any one species of coral as a concept spread over the whole tropical Pacific. Its massive calcium carbonate skeleton formed here and there on the sea floor. Extending between these colonies I saw long rivers of larvae like sparks blowing from the flickering flames of living corals as their perception, memory, reaction focused sunlight into a dance of life. The corals are spermatozoans, and the message the bring. They are larvae, adventuring their memories into the sea. They are a web of communications as wide as sea."
As we drive down the other side of the mountain on the final leg to Yves house he says, "I like the behavior zone idea, but I'm not sure why you think it is the key to our problems here in New Caledonia."
"I see the stress here as an attitude problem." I begin but Yves interrupts,
"Yes. Like in an aircraft," I demonstrate with my hands, "The direction of flight, the way the aircraft is angled as it moves through the air, is the aircraft's attitude. The attitude determines the path of the aircraft. With the wrong attitude you'll never get where you want to go."
"In English, attitude also refers to your approach to solving problems or doing things. Again, if you have the wrong attitude you don't solve your problems, but keep on making more."
"Yes, this seems to be the case. New Caledonia has an attitude problem." Yves watches the road as we pass a small picnic area. Barbecue smells alert my stomach (lunch time). The picnic area is filled with families - black, white, yellow - milling around having fun on the beach.
"Part of this problem is seeing New Caledonia as a rock with a collection of individuals with different needs and desires living on it. From this point of view, the Aristotelian logic viewpoint, all we see is each person doing his or her own thing, living on a rock, tracking their personal needs day by day. But, if you could photograph them over a week's time, you'd see the tracks of all these individuals form a behavioral web. The web covers and interacts with the whole of the island. Everyone together forms a larger kind of creature, intimately intertwined with the plants and animals and the land to create a living island.
"I believe this larger network of behavior can also track its survival needs. Right now it is doing so unconsciously, unaware of itself. It does not realize what it could be doing to improve its response to the rest of the world. With the proper attitude, the whole island could improve its timing and responsiveness and get better and stronger very rapidly." Yves slows and turns off the hard road onto the dirt track leading to his home.
Freddy and Danielle set up the guest room for us and Yves turns on the electricity and water. I walk out onto the veranda overlooking the lagoon and get out my notebook. Another phrase of the poem has popped into my mind.
Our constant change in relative position creates error in expected cycles. When the unexpected happens, memory fails, awareness awakens, adjusts for survival, adjusts again, always tracking the error of expectations.
Right after this, I write 'Mana!' in the notebook. Mana is a ancient island term. Webster defines it as a primitive superstition of some Pacific Island people. I agree it is now superstition, but I also believe, from what I've read, it was much more than superstition during prehistory. And something tells me it is somehow related to this idea of the unexpected, the tracking of an organism as it moves through its environment.
We spend the afternoon feeding, laying about, playing chess and talking about the proposed cultural association. Maybe a news letter - a pamphlet about New Caledonia's common biological interests. A lecture series about how New Caledonia is a living island. Photographs showing people of all sorts working together towards common goals.
"I once saw a book called the Book of Jump. It was done by a famous Photographer. It showed all sorts of celebrities jumping up into the air. The act of jumping does something to a person. The way they do it reveals something important about them. I remember one shot was of the Pope jumping. In mid-air the Pope became just another man dressed in an odd costume. Jumping, we are all human.
"What we need is a photograph - a giant bill-board poster - showing all kinds of people jumping. Ranging from the top political leaders through the children in remote island villages. We could take the individual photos and then assemble them on a white background. All the images of the people would take the overall form of the island of New Caledonia. People would look at it for hours. They'd get the message."
We sit and contemplate the vision of a thousand people jumping - captured in mid-air. It would cost thousands of dollars. I'd just love to do it, but I can tell Yves and Danielle don't see how powerful a message it would be. Yves and I start another chess game.
"Yves, as the director of the Aquarium, you have many opportunities to speak on the radio and TV about natural history. Why not talk about behavior zones and the interrelatedness of life on this small island in the Pacific?"
"Yes, I intend to do this," he says, absently, his eyes fixed on the large wooden chess pieces.
"The approach is basically non-political and non-religious It is a logical, scientific reason to live and work together. It shows how conflict is unsuccessful in bringing prosperity."
We play in concentrated silence. Chess can be played two ways, one is a game of strategy, the other a game of tactical moves. There is a basic difference in the two games. A strategic player sets up the pieces to gain control of the board. It is a power struggle and the motivation for any one move is to build this power.
A tactical player sets up a series of moves to attain a specific goal. To take the queen, for example. Each move is aimed at this goal. I have noticed that island governments play strategic politics. So do the communist governments. I, being an American, play out and out tactical chess. Although I understand the value and power of strategic chess.
Yves is a very good player. He seems to play both strategies. He is in the lead for most of the game but makes two successive bad moves. "Checkmate," I say, sliding my bishop in line with his King. I think he let me win. A good host that sees he has beaten his guest but decides to be polite. But I understand I should not acknowlege this kindness.
Sunset on the terrace. Tangerine Dream weaves electronic music into the background. "If we can think of the island as one creature, the organism must track its needs." Yves begins. "This is a very interesting idea because tracking is a delicate behavioral process."
"Right," I answer, "Very delicate."
"There are two sorts of tracking. In the first, an animal seeks a basic goal." Yves demonstrates this by drawing a goal, an animal, and an arrow between the animal and its goal. "This is a fish at night on the reef and here is some food, a school of small fish. The fish tastes the food in the water down current. It swims like this," Yves draws a wavy line representing the path of the fish as it hunts the source of the metabolites. "When it moves towards its goal, the taste is stronger. The fish swims strongly in this direction. When the taste is weaker the fish slows and turns to swim in another direction, seeking a stronger taste in the water. This is what you mean by tracking, correct?"
"Right. An organism seeking a goal, keeping the sensory signal strong. Everything does it all the time. Even chemical systems oscillate back and forth tracking an equilibrium."
"Yes," Yves taps the drawing with his pencil, "The actual change in taste may be caused by a difference of only a very small percentage of the number of atoms of the food in the water. And the number of atoms of the food may be dissolved in billions of atoms of water. Yet this small change in a very tiny amount of matter can cause even a very large fish to alter its course and swim in a new direction."
"Exactly," I like his analogy. "Even a very big fish like New Caledonia, tracking the taste of something, will be sensitive to a very small change at just the right time. Presented in just the right way, the seemingly insignificant change will alter the direction of the island megabeast. A very small change in direction can result in a very big change in the final destination. "It's a matter of attracting the beast's attention."
"Perhaps we should make comic books," Danielle suggests, her big eyes peering through the sunset at us.
"We would need an artist for this. And a scenario," Yves considers the idea seriously.
"How about Captain Yves?" Freddy suggests. "Captain Yves is like Getafix in Asterix; a provider of secret information to the other characters. An agent of the Terran Intelligence Service working for the mind of the planet."
"But science is not the same as Getafix. He is a sorcerer." Yves objects, "Science does not have hocus pokus. It is not mysterious."
"Mathematics is mysterious to most people," I side with Freddy. "Besides, Asterix does not think of Getafix as mysterious. Getafix is practical and offers real solutions to solve community problems. Sorcerers, in many cases, were the early scientists cast into purgatory by the Church. The Church was, and always has been, the mysterious one. In its attempt to survive as an idea system, the Church sensed sorcerers endangered their own mysterious (magic) power base. So it condemned all kinds of science as sorcery and witchcraft for almost a thousand years."
"I certainly agree with that," Injects Freddy.
"I suspect the Church has always known about communal self awareness and has used this concept to gain its own position of power and control. A consistent feature of all cults is that the members are something special, different and superior to any other cult. They and they alone will reach salvation. The Church even refers to itself as the Body. It viciously attacks autonomous communal self-awareness because it is contra-productive to those who would prey on society's energies for their own survival." As I say this, I'm thinking about the Holy Mama in the Solomon Islands. He was a man who knew how to kindle community self-awareness. And the Methodist Missionaries persecuted him all his life.
"But religion offers an outside spirit which people can turn to - something outside themselves - something which can answer their prayers." Yves protests.
"So does science. Science offers a larger, self-aware spirit. The communication web between all people. Unlike the mummified, all knowing metaphysical Church God, Science's God can be seen. And it learns."
"Lets have dinner," Freddy suggests. She does not like to get into this subject. Probably a good idea, God is one of those control words to shut off minds.
After dinner, I show slides of our travels and Yves shows slides of his travels. It is a marvelous interchange of visions and memories accompanied by the electronic music of Jean Michel Jarre.
Later, we retire to the lawn to overlook Sea, smoke cigars and drink some brandy. Yves returns to tracking. "As I said, there are two kinds of tracking. Two different ways decisions can be made."
"Oh?" I reply, sleepily.
"Yes. In the first, our fish was moving along in the night, seeking its prey. Tasting the water, deciding which way to turn to keep on the track of its food. It is a hungry fish and determined. Each move of its muscles is keyed to its mental hunt. But suppose, as it swims, it tastes a few atoms emitted by a female fish which is about to produce eggs?"
"Ahh, this could change everything." I chuckle.
"Yes, it changes the mind of the fish. The old search is abandoned and the fish moves towards another goal." Yves has a good point.
"Right. Because reproduction is a different kind of goal than feeding. Not just another target of food." I sit there and try to think about this.
"Organisms have different centers of awareness, just like we do." I muse out loud. "There are four basic phases of animal awareness. The first is the to or away phase, seeking food or drink or fleeing bodily harm. The second phase is the up and down phase - the ranking of an organism in the hirearchy of nature and in the pecking order of its own kind. Animals compare their relative strengths with other males or females. Then there is the right and left phase - the tensions of deciding to move as an individual or as a part of a group. I suppose this is the political phase. This leads to the next phase, which is a quite different direction - through time; the reproductive phase - sex."
Yves flicks the ashes off his cigar and nods, "Yes, and all the phases eventually link together. The political phase is based on attraction to desires, dominence of others, deciding which way to go as a group, and this eventually assures the survival of the group through time."
"Yes." We ponder this for awhile. Danielle and Freddy are talking softly in French. They get up and go inside together. "It's like 3D vision," I suggest, watching them leave.
"How is it like 3D vision?" Yves asks.
"Your rightside mind and eye sees one view of reality. The leftside mind and eye sees another view from a different perspective. Lets say the rightside mind is the center of awareness for phase one - bodily survival. The leftside mind is the center of awareness for phase two - social relationships."
"Yes, I think this may actually be so," Yves agrees.
"The two eyes together create, in a union of the left and right visions, something brand new and different, impossible for either brain half to achieve except during the interchange of information between the two minds. A three dimensional view of the world around. In the same way, an animal must exchange information between the individual phase in one hemisphere of the brain and the community phase in the other hemisphere. This interechange of information - normally stress - is what we have called the third phase - right and left. The whole process generates a shift of perspective to create a vision through time." I finish.
"Yes, I think you are correct." Yves gazes out over Sea. The view is very 3D.
"There is a harmonic to the first three layers of awareness." I comment after awhile.
"What are these?" Yves asks.
"Like a harmonic of radio frequencies, the awareness harmonics deal with the same kinds of problems of existence but from a higher perspective. A second order of to and from, up and down, left and right and through time.
"There is a kind of gateway - a mind valve, to the higher harmonics. The valve shuts if we view the first two phases of awareness - bodily survival and dominance - with anxiety. In this case, we are addicted to personal desires - wealth, comfort, eating, sex - and the result is evil and self-serving. We use our power over others to satisfy personal desires for survival and sex."
"The valve to the next harmonic opens when our mind views the lower phases calmly. Awareness enters into the second harmonic. Here, in the first stage of the second level, we perceive physical needs are easily satisfied. Food and drink and shelter are not so important. We are, after all, living in a very obliging ecosystem. Staying alive and uninjured is not terribly difficult."
"And the same with sex," agrees Yves.
"Yes, that's true. The first phase of the higher level is attraction or fear of this higher level - attraction to, for example, spirituality. And the second harmonic to the dominance center perceives up and down levels of our own being as parallel with other beings; like knowing the cells of our body are in fact part of us and not something to compete with. The right left phase becomes the selection between alternative relationships with other beings - not just humans."
"Oh yes, of course. I know." Yves sips the last of his brandy. "And so the higher harmonic of the through time phase must be bliss. Satori. The level where the observer attains perfect harmony with the environment and the two blend together and become one with the universe."
"The ultimate levels of power." I finish my brandy, too. I think Yves has skipped a couple of harmonic levels but its getting late and our French/English barrier has exhausted me.
"Would you like anything else?" Yves asks. "Another brandy perhaps?"
"Bedtime," Freddy says from the doorway.
"We must continue this another time," Yves gets up. "I would like to think about how we can use these ideas for altering the course of our island megabeast."
At 3 AM, a squadron of mosquitos dives through the window and attacks my head. I pull the sheet over my head and they scream in rage and make passes at my protruding fingers.
"God, how can anyone live ashore?" Grumbles Freddy sleepily.
"Especially without screens." I peek out and the squadron leader sees me with it's heat-seeking sensors and dives to the attack 'eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeow.'