Sometimes Josh wished he were just an animal. A dumb animal. A big dumb animal. Whoever came up with ignorance is bliss knew a thing or two. But Josh was no big dumb animal. His brain was enflamed with aspirations and questions about the meaning of life. He was a smart animal. A painful animal. An animal who couldn’t fill his head with nothing.
Even smart animals do dumb stunts. Backcountry. Extreme snowboarding. Riding an avalanche chute as if it were a half pipe. Arcing over to the granite outcroppings. Throwing a five-forty and slicing across to the base of the sheer wall on the other side. Back and forth. Tack and throw. Until. Until that dumb chute lived up to the name given it by the smart people. First surface tension released, opening a fissure on the slope above. Then whoosh! The snow alive beneath his board and he’s surfing the avalanche. Down down. Tumbling and swimming and flailing; just desperate to stay on top, to not go under.
When the avalanche comes to a stop, Josh is buried lucky—mostly upright and with the snow only up to his shoulders. His head is free and he gulps air, lungs searing on breaths full of ice crystals and snowflakes. He struggles to free his arms, to become unstuck from where he is stuck. Finally he punches his hands and arms free. Exhausted, his head slumps, chin resting on the snow. An appropriate time to think about the utility of being a dumb animal, an animal without cogito. He ponders being a non-thinker, imagines perceiving and sensing without the senseless sentiency, which seems a sentence, a penance. His brain burns with the possibility and he feels himself swelling with enlightenment—satori. He shouts his discovery, shouts the answer to the question of all questions. He is shouting, isn’t he? Even if no one is there to hear him shout? He shouts just to hear himself shout. Help! Help! Yes, he’s shouting. With that conundrum solved, he wises up and begins to dig himself out.
Later, Josh realized that his time in the avalanche reminded him of another time of clarity, another time when he thought he knew all the answers, another time when he had the meaning of life within his grasp. That moment had come shortly after his dentist, in preparation for drilling into a root canal, had kindly gassed him to near extinction with ether. When Josh was in the avalanche there hadn’t been any smart animals within earshot to appreciate his shouted pronouncements. His dentist, on the other hand, heard him loud and clear, declared Josh a prophet, asked for more wisdom, and thus Josh spoke: Grkk etk glkr klgg gekt—kegger!