Bat slip?

The Great Bat Slip Synchronicity

by Ted Denmark

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May 27, 2017

It was two days ago when I finally settled down on the couch “of an evening,” as my grandfather would have said, to watch a new PBS program in the Nature series entitled The gathering Swarms. The recent series featuring robotic decoy spy cameras had been so insanely good, I did not want to miss anything else putting these fantastic new high frame-rate video cameras through their paces up close and personal on critter collectives in the wild. This one, about various herds, swarms, schools, flocks and hives of such social creatures, was a little different but equally riveting. First there were the Wildebeests, the Zebras, the cyclic locusts, the army ants … and then the hordes of bats … among others obsessively observed.

I watched it all with great interest (except for the ants), but the moment I turned the TV off, I suddenly became aware of a real bat that had somehow gotten into the room and was now flying around the big L-shaped corner complex of the house with great abandon. Even though bats do routinely patrol around the outside of the house at this time of day, snagging mosquitos and various bugs trying to get in, I had not seen a bat get into the house in more than a decade when a door had inadvertently been left open for a short time. This evening, there had been no open doors or windows … but the bat, I reasoned, must have somehow slipped in around the edge of a screen or something (?) to investigate the bat sounds emanating from my TV.

I quickly managed to close all the adjoining doors to isolate the bat in the one closed-in space and then open the large unscreened window in the dining room while moving to the opposite end of the L to shoo the ultra-silent leather-neck flyer back in the opposite direction. It took a few minutes of arm waving at the barely-visible stealthy intruder as it circled around and about so wildly … but then it was gone, I assumed, out through the open window. I shook my head in disbelief. This would be a good story tomorrow for Julie, I thought.

It just so happened that another very likely, exceptional program was airing that evening in the next hour on the Charlie Rose Show with Neil deGrasse Tyson being interviewed about his new book entitled, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, debuting at the number 1 position on the New York Times Best Seller List the week before. As usual, deGrasse was at his charming self-deprecating best, trying to explain to wonkish legal-eagle Charlie, admittedly not so authoritative on astrophysics as say, the over-exposed issues of neuroscience, but eagerly giving chase with his next mock serious “gotcha” with an impatiently deadpan look in anticipation of the highly-nuanced “ready for prime time” nerdy riposte … now arriving at Dark Matter and Dark Energy. What about that? Well, with a knowing smile and a wink deGrasse said, that would “call up the bat signal” since the Dark Matter enigma was the most extreme conundrum in “all of science.” Or at least, “all of Astrophysics.” Bingo (!) … deGrasse as Batman to the rescue with Charlie as a reluctant Robin hustling to keep up, would surely be able to describe the clarion of Dark Matter and Dark Energy to his appreciative PBS audience, many of whom would have already bought the book.

I naturally sank deeper into my spot at the end of the couch upon hearing the Batman quip in amused amazement—or was it amazed amusement? The lingering bat synchronicity had made its next move! Of course I had gotten used to such amazing synchronicities quite a few years ago, but this was obviously a really good one, as I pondered potential sets of meaningful connections … and I was not without notions about what it might mean but not sure what was more symbolically correct. The continuation of the Tyson interview did not disappoint with his well-honed skill at making the impossibly arcane from the Big Bang to Black Holes and the Einsteinian superluminal limit, come alive in a cinematic way for the celebrity-follower viewers like me. I mused that “PBS is not TV,” as they used to say in a similar way on HBO (“HBO is not TV”). After that, a newly-discovered Van Morrison Concert from 1973 came and went, and I finally went to bed after grazing on a few more short You Tube online gems soon after giving up on the bad overexposed video from the great American Big Hair past.

When I next spoke with Julie on our daily call about this curious bat synchronicity, her curiosity was similarly piqued. One of the first things she said was, “… bat out of Hell?” Apart from a quick flash of Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club imagery, I had no connection with this aspect of bat tropism, and we went on to speak of many other animal totems, etc. without coming to any brokered consensus, even though she read at length from one of her books on bats from the Native American tradition.

The next evening I was similarly engaged surfing the four (!) PBS multiplexed channels beaming from the Sacramento transmitter nearly a hundred miles away, again looking for a bit of after-dinner entertainment. There wasn’t as much good prime-time programming to be found, but alas, there is so much streaming media available now 24-7, not to mention Blue Ray and DVD discs as well as vintage evening NPR re-broadcasts and even old-school network broadcast TV, etc. that … I didn’t hesitate to momentarily focus on the generic Antiques Roadshow scene in front of me where I had spontaneously hesitated … but, wait a minute (!) … what am I looking at now?

What I was seeing was a smiling matronly woman sitting at a table with an attending antiques expert, and they were looking at a very odd piece of jewelry in front of them on a display pedestal … a necklace with a large pendant of a … BAT with wings outspread! I squinted my eyes in disbelief and listened more carefully to what was being said in the discussion which had just begun. The woman was wondering if this very unusual, full-sized and very realistic-looking silver bat on a neck-chain with intricately sculpted wings, was of any value or just a bizarre sort of joke (?). The sympathetic expert assured her the bat was indeed a known valid jewelry theme, and in the current instance, perfectly preserved and dating from the late 19th Century, a piece worked with great skill on the part of the jeweler. Such things on Antiques Roadshow are invariably valued in the low thousands of dollars, and so it was in this case, too. The woman was appropriately amazed and became slightly flustered on camera. The jewelry appraiser added as an afterthought that bat-themed pieces like this one, coming from the late Nineteenth Century Art Nouveau movement, at least in Japan and china, the likely place of its origin (without recognizable marks), were considered symbols of good luck. No doubt a red one would have really been over the top!

Well, once again I was feeling flattened like a flounder with this fourth instance of bat pie being served up to me, now in real time TV. But what does it mean, Mr. Natural? I didn’t know. When I spoke with Julie again the following morning about this curious series of bat-lore break-ins, she, too, was duly impressed … and her remark again was, “… bat out of Hell?” No, I said, same as before—trying to avoid the cliché response. This was now getting to Julie, and she was likely frowning with curiosity. We had come to the end of our phone check-in, but later she sent me an email saying my bat caper was really important (!).

Well, it happened again this morning. While I was listening to the very funny Sunday morning NPR radio contestant quiz show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, the word “bat” was the rhyme word in the limerick segment that had to be matched (!). The person got it right (it was “rat”) without missing a beat, and so did I. I not only noticed the bat theme again while finishing this little post-breakfast espresso moment, but it suddenly occurred to me where the whole thing might have come from. It had been back during the election campaign when someone had asked a prominent southern Republican politician what he thought of candidate Trump on the campaign trail, and he said, also without hesitation, “Crazy as bat shit.” This had also been my slip-of-the-lip quip when Julie had recently asked me, what did I think of Trump (?). It seemed like the correct answer both times, but was this the phantom menace my subconscious was engaged with the whole time in compacting its database of links? For now I’ll settle for springing it on the next unsuspecting questioner who comes along with what might be the most commonly insistent question in America … But does it mean that he is the “Bat out of Hell”? Or is his problem merely narcissistic dementia? I will be in the on-deck circle, awaiting my next time “at bat” to find out more about these cute but terrifying, flying mice.

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