Paul Haeder, Author

writing, interviews, editing, blogging

Bats . . . Conversations in a time of Plague . . . What’s Love Got to do with it?

Part One

Cirque #25 [first appeared in current Cirque Journal]

The lie lulls or dreams, like the illusion. The truth is the only power, cheerful, inexhaustible. If we  were able to live only of, and for truth: young and immortal energy in us. The man of truth does not age. A little more effort and he will not die. – Albert Camus

We were up high in a cave, near the border of Laos. The one Vietnamese with us, a scientist, Viet, wondered what kind of crazy mad dogs and Englishmen we were.

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He and I were the same age, 36, and most of the team members were in early 20’s, and one guy from Canada was 20.

Viet and I discussed his work on rural farming and the system of getting rice farmers to breed fish in the paddies, and to use fish to eat/take to market and utilizing fish poop to fertilize. Snails breed and live in abundance, too, for eating/market purposes.  The water is actually cleaner this way for boiling consumption. Simple design, but lots of resistance and some hurdles to traverse. Even small two-light bulb output low flow power generators, dropped in the water that slurries of through gravity, that’s another one of Viet’s passions.

Viet is one of hundreds of people I have come to love for their minds, souls and life’s passageways out of struggle and poverty (the war against Vietnam by France and USA, et al, for Viet and his family, tragedy piled onto tragedy), to a sense of purpose, a bit of calm. That calm is gained with intellectual fellowship.

We drank green tea and talked a lot.

Vietnamese Tea Culture, Tea Products, Tea Tours & Festivals in Vietnam...

I wonder about him, now, as 28 years have passed. His family, job, the state of Vietnam, the rapaciousness of capitalism conquering markets, tying up land, building exclusive resorts, and his own health with the additional pollutants in air, water, soil. The climate crisis. All of that, and then, of course, how’s he doing under this new plague, the other one, this bat plague and the attendant plague of various forms of fascism and mental and physical lockdown?

I wonder as life and death moves like a circle of locusts through the land, inside cities, in rural places, within families. I can’t shake Ouroboros from my mind. Snake shaped as an eternal biological cyclic of renewal or a cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The real snake I share the house with, ball python, leaves old skin sloughed off monthly, a transmigration of soul, his previous soul left for me to remark. Remade, in a sense, and the molt is the leftover negative of his (we call him Copernicus) life, monthly.

If only humans understood this transmigration. What a species we might become.

How can I touch the Ouroboros  without thinking of a kind family man, Viet, who was not thrilled with my proclivity for finding real snakes in the hills and jungle. I did talk about the silver Ouroboros around my neck, the snake biting its own tail. I attempted to let him know that while it is a fertility symbol in some religions, with the tail of the snake a phallus and the mouth womb, that for me I hold it as circle of universal light, knowledge and rebirth, second birth, and death and struggle. Mine.

Mysterious bat flock at Doi pagoda

Circle, an encircling of my own beginning-middle-end-beginning.

I wonder about the symbol now, Ouroboros, in this propaganda operation lifting capitalists and technocrats above everyone . . . how-out- of synch are most scientists I know about, communicate with and read . . . being out of balance inside cages lined with hubris, well, that is the plague upon all of us. The battiness of our time. Shut-down conversations. A place now where love is not a driver for our relations and relationships.

Vector Ouroboros Symbol Tattoo Design Flash Stock Vector - Illustration of  ornament, icon: 197001781

This is a plague of gigantic proportions, as scientists as mad in the head as Mengele dance with the devil, fill-in for Mother Nature, tinker with genes, extend and retract lifespans at the push of a gene editor, with contagions hacked and transmissibility amped up.

The reverberation echoes deep inside me since my life has been one of discovery and open dialogue, critical and systems thinking, research and discourse, mutual aid and writing.

So many days the past two years for me have displayed spiritual near dead-ends, where meaning is stripped like that molting snake’s skin from my own grounding, or lack of grounding. Conversations are clipped, and deep dives into logic and ethos, they are blips, like sand between dry fingers.

The work in Vietnam 28 years ago was all about embracing constructs way outside my own, and the discussions and deep excavation of those around me and myself were both beautiful and challenging, sometimes rough.

A Guide to Hanoi's Best Shopping Streets | Condé Nast Traveler

In Vietnam, on this biological survey, I was the lone American, age 36, the same age as my old man who was shot (wounded badly) in Vietnam, farther south of where we were setting up a dark bird net to carry out a haphazard bat collecting sweep.


The dragon shaped smoke billowing in the village tethered me to other people, and with the British graduate students yammering about this or that Vietnamese fag (cigarette) and beer, I demanded a shift out of their meanderings.  I wanted to leap into the darkness and float to the small earthen floor homes and sit and drink tea, gulp homemade whisky and watch the plastic figures on their tiny TVs while attempting to talk about their world, and mine.

So I wrote in my journal.

The news, music and dramas were coming in from China broadcasters. It was surreal but familiar, rural, a place I had already been all my life.

Zither music ricocheted off near yelping dogs. The water buffalo pulled up air and mud with the sound of their reverse slurps conjoined like a dozen bowling balls smashing into a bog.

Time to think, time to contemplate. Again, the beauty is not always in the moment, but from a memory of a day before, maybe. The climb up was muddy, and everyone was wet. This was not a well-outfitted science team. Brits don’t always think of all the things to make it – roughing it — a little more bearable.

We dug our own latrine at base camp, cooked food on open fires, and there was one generator, and that was not for nighttime lighting. I crossed rivers (during the rainy season, so it was more like a wrestling match fully head in with leech-loving rapids) to resupply. The Russian motocross bikes we had bogged down and failed most of the time.

Now, the memories are raw, in the slipstream of poetic embrace, with some journalistic objectivity mixed in. At times, in the constant rain, isolated, in that jungle and in the primary forest, loneliness did mess with the mind.

Pu Mat National Park – Back to nature during your Vietnam family holidays |  Lux Travel DMC's Blog

Yet, there were always the Vietnamese and ethnic minority families we came across. And the deep recesses of limestone. Caves. The snakes, too, in trees, vipers and unmatched beautiful thin ones, as thin as flute reeds.

Caves of the mind and spirit, that’s an easy leap. Thinking of what we were doing as science and the fun of busting butt climbing through the underbrush, I knew that was a good thing, but the late night cave ceiling encounters  and bats fluttering in and out, and the primitive villages down below (we hit five caves in five different places), and my own sense of mortality – the gut diseases, the shivers, the cuts and fungus between toes, and the wipeouts with the Minsk 250 cc motorbikes – this also shaped my stream of thought, the consciousness connected to these mates, and the idea of where I was.

Never another Vietnam. Those homeless guys I worked with back home. The military bases where I taught college classes. Guys like Tim O’Brien, The Things they Carried, and others I had run into back home as a journalist and literary hanger on, that too was evocative for me, in-country, on the edge of Laos. Real biodiversity work, but a haphazard way of shaping my feelings there.

I was the only American, and they came to know, not that kind of American.  That was pointed out so many times. And the Vietnamese sought me out too, well, to embrace, arm wrestle, ask me what I thought of their country. My pretty nice diver’s watch they all touched, wanting  to feel its weight.

“Is it real Rolex? You go under waves with it? Can we trade? Submariner, good shit!”

Pu Mat National Park (Vinh) - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go

Amazing things were offered as trade – a huge chunk of jade bigger than a softball. A rare looking archeological carving of a turtle and tiger. A broken down 100 cc motorcycle. An M-16 rifle.  Two book manuscripts that looked like they were from 1500, AD, Chinese or Korean.  One gentleman offered to put me up for a year in his raised house on the edge of town. Just for the watch.

Pu Mat National Park & Western Nghe An Exploration - 4 Days - Hanoi Local  Tour

They all wanted to know what we were looking for in the caves. Again, ecology was not a word in the Vietnamese language, even with the scientists at the biological institute in Hanoi where we had gone before getting deep into primary forest.

I wrote many passages about what Vietnam is, what the war is, and what ecology might look like in a poor country, one where people were literally left starving to eat, grass, bugs, and, bats.

This last cave went back pretty far, like an esophagus of our childhood’s worst nightmares. Monster chasing you into the night. Roaring and dark mouth, widening. Then, the sounds of bats way up, clinging before the appointed hour to break away and scurry into air for their eating hours, another evil memory soundtrack from movies. Rush hour out. Timed, this circadian urge, or the shape of sky with the sun over the horizon and filaments of photons hitting their eyes. Or electromagnetic fields emanating from heavens and bouncing into stones and valleys after the sun spills over into our night. Or the sounds of gnats and moths and dozens of other species turning sky into conveyor belts of feeding, breeding and flying toward light, or anything shiny or scaly.

The urge to leave and fly as mammals into the night, that is the wonder. The cycle of in and out, and then the hibernation, sometimes months at a time, depending on the bat species. Amazing species to learn from.

The corona virus blues, all that experimentation, all those samples collected. Specimens of viruses morphing from phase to serial phase. Labs, scientists, lights, hood ventilation, moon suits, all the research, and the nefarious ones, in spook-land, and the military, there, capturing data, unpublished reports and studies.

I had no thoughts of that stuff in 1994 – pre-Covid SARS-CoV2 –C-19 blues. What three decades does to the shifting baselines, to the knowledge base, to the collective consciousness.

Where Did The Coronavirus Start? Virus Hunters Find Clues In Bats : Short  Wave : NPR


There are eight of us, and the seven of them smoke, with Viet only taking an offered rolled cigarette infrequently. We are not making fire, not making hot tea, not lighting the rocky floor with flames. Some have flashlights and some have head lamps.

Music below is clichéd ghostly. In the distance are the shapes of knobby up-thrust rock formations covered in matty jungle. Around us to the west us are hills, carpeted with picked-over jungle and then well-used paths leading to mountains, alpine, elfin and misty hidden cliffs.

The goal is to get bats going out (and then, later coming in), pull them gingerly out of the forgiving netting, measure them, weigh them, take notes, photograph them, and then, let them go their merry ways out to the hunting grounds.

In the dark, essential, with focused beams of light on their, well, let’s call them faces only a mother bat would love. These are not the faces of those fruit bats (flying foxes) illustrating the book, Stellaluna which I read to my newborn child a year and a half after leaving Vietnam.

STELLALUNA Read Aloud - YouTube

Echolocation. More than 1,400 species of bats around the world (we’re still discovering more). Most bats are endangered. Many bats are sick. Homes, caves, caverns, outcroppings and trees are contaminated with the whistling, chopping, sawing, bulldozing, burning, spraying, digging, razing, desiccating, polluting, damming efforts of man.

This is just one animal, one part of the biodiversity equation (oh, each bat species has its own niche, which is amazingly complex, cooperative, competitive, symbiotic, parallel with other species) but still illustrative  of the  never- ending story of Western scientists (white guys and gals, mostly) parachuting into someone else’s world and ramming through this or that study, this or that report, this or that deep analysis or any variety of  scurrying bio-blitz, transect of THEIR land, of THEIR people, of THEIR species, of THEIR habits.

I was loosely part of that parachuting into Vietnam, with wide open eyes, an open line of communication, and what I knew, more of less at the time, was all that love having everything to do with my own curiosity and haggard walkabout in life. Why I went to Vietnam — to help people back home exorcise their demons.

I also knew I was different, un-American, a product of that Vietnam War, and I was unabashedly anti-imperial, and that included being anti-Britain, in many forms, to go along with my anti-American (USA) frame of reference almost anywhere I went, reported on and taught at.

To then come to now, 2022, with Wuhan, World Military Games, DARPA, University of North Carolina, Anthony Fauci, EcoHealth Alliance, and other topics for which I have done deep dives into with hundreds of others into the sciences – that science, around viruses, and then, the darker side, bioweapons research around “those” viruses – facts, unresolved debates, all of that, not just locked up in my head, but swirling around like bats in, well, a cave, or would that be the belfry?


It began, or at least as we know it through the massive media system of command and control, with the end game selling us on a constant diet of fear: fear of not having enough, fear of not fitting in, fear of falling behind, fear of life, fear of death, fear of loneliness, fear of the unknown, fear of the known, fear of forgetting, fear of poverty-eviction-foreclosure-bankruptcy-prison.  The madmen of Madison Avenue intersecting with PT Barnum (that sucker born every nanosecond, now) and with Edward Bernays and the Chicago Boys and witch hunts, the Dulles Brothers and J. Edgar Hoover, and, well, so many tendrils to the root of evil for which this essay is not digging up.

Imagine a society brought up on duck and cover as a way to stave off nuclear annihilation. That science. That propaganda. That delusion.

5 Things You Can Do When There's Mass Hysteria and Panic

That psychological fear of not being, or, of being this or that undesirable thing, for which has been preset, goes back hundreds of years, maybe more, but for us, now, 2022, this is the land of make-over after make-over; take-over after cooption;, left-over after trickle-down, with the constant amnesia and marketing of lies, fabrications, half-truths and mythologies as the conduit for the fear of not having or fear of having. The process of studying this phenomenon, as in anthropological terms, is, agnotology which is using historical forensics to delve into the process of unknowing.

In this time of plague, corona plague, where oh where is the study of deliberate, culturally-induced ignorance or doubt?  Throughout the land, throughout all those chambers of power, it seems, there is a hard and soft sell of a product, idea, concept, and much of this is through the constant publishing of inaccurate or misleading scientific studies. Propaganda as weapon, but also as teacher and marketer. Dangerous times. Mother and father, propagandists at birth.

Toward some ends, this agnotology illustrates a sort of paralysis, not just analysis paralysis, but this overlay in our culture of “more knowledge of a subject leaving us more uncertain – unknowing — than before.”  It leaves many dry, confused, in a Stockholm Syndrome empty gut land of overeating, overspending, overdreaming.

The news broadcasts, already jimmy- rigged to confuse and colonize the average person, drew us in. It was lightning speed, the Wuhan lab, the plague, or in this case, a corona virus, setting us up with a novel awakening of the monsters and mobsters that are the characters of those many circles of hell Dante obsessed over.

For some, this was a military propaganda operation, and then others drew from history – a container ship full of papers, reports and books on the nefarious ways of the Western mind. We do not need to start with Josef Mengele, and we can go way back, seeing how Turtle Island, how all of the southern parts of America, was colonized using a sophisticated and effective contamination of not just the land and the spirit, but of the body.

It was religion ruled by the bank.

Before 2020, we had been looking into many plagues –bioweapons programs of the USA, in concert not just with the Department of Defense (offense) and DARPA, Fort Detrick, Plum Island, etc.,  but with the assistance of the web of scientists at private Tier One and state universities cooking up toxins, poisons, weapons of mass destruction. The same science that produces an X-Box is behind the illegal and murderous drone assassination program of Barak Obama,  or  the total awareness snooping programs and hacking which Edward Snowden uncovered.

The same marketing gurus and regulatory bodies that pumped out the many devilish heads of The Oxycontin Crisis are working their dark arts in the Corona Crisis. Except, now, since beginning in 2020, there are no real conversations, no critical debates about policies, about experimentation, about informed consent. We went from hating Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson, and Monsanto and Bayer, et al, to, well, fill in the colonizing methodology now deployed.  You can question “that” science, but not “this” science.

We are in a timeframe that leaves us on our own and then even though it is survival of the richest or healthiest, we have collectively been engineered to have a mob mentality on so many topics, tied to the drug companies, the government overreach, the cancel culture in academia, in the sciences and medicine.

Watching bats almost 30 years ago from a ledge overlooking a Vietnamese village, I am here now, in a world that is, to use the pejorative, more than just batty. Or bats in the belfry.


Big-eared, Pearson’s horseshoe, round-leaf, Himalayan whisked, Chinese rufous, large myotis, all bats we identified, in their indignant struggle to get out of our nets and our gloved hands.

A rush, for sure, since my bat days started when I was seven, in a cabana on the Costa del Sol. I was enlisted to shoo away or capture a bat that had gotten into the little hideaway my family had rented for two weeks in Spain.

But really, bats and I started at age half a year. After my birth in California, my family took us to the Azores. Imagine that, the only mammal endemic to the islands is a bat — the Azores noctule (Nyctalus azoreum) found in the dry forests of the Azores. That was also in my dreams as a four-month-old and 4-year-old, all products of those shadows and darks shades the skies when we went out for evening walks, first me in a stroller and then pumping chubby legs to keep up with adults.

Photos of Azores Noctule (Nyctalus azoreum) · iNaturalist

Always looking up. Avian and aerial lives of my dreams and thoughts. Even as a diver 16 years later, I’d go 90 feet down, and then, stop, looking up at life, at oceanic life with a sun filtering through. Inside the riot, part of the riot of marine life. Water is soul craft.

Bats’ destinations were always in my mind. Where do they come from? How do they hunt at night? Where do they mate? What do they eat?

Batty conversations later in life were tied to the bats under Lake Austin, in Texas, and the big rush of bats at Carlsbad Canyons. Bats were always on my mind, I guess since I was a child on the Azores when an old skinny, dory-exhausted, bent-over fisherman  whose name I have forgotten showed me and my sister that one bat species – later in my life filed away as,  “Kingdom: Animalia ; Phylum: Chordata; Class: Mammalia; Order: Chiroptera; Family: Vespertilionidae; Genus: Nyctalus.”

The Azores islands should be on your list for a winter getaway – SheKnows

He had it in a huge off-green glass jar. I watched it flutter, trying to escape the prison and the photons.

The Bat Cave - North and South Rivers Watershed Association

Always watching the science journals for any new news on bats, that was me. In 2011, lo and behold, in that  same locale where I had been seven years earlier, three new bat species were “discovered” in Vietnam.

A small one, for sure, of the tube-nosed variety. Leave it up to the Hungarian scientist with the Natural History Museum to call it a tiny demon — “We chose the name Beelzebub to reflect the dark ‘diabolic’ coloration of the new species and its fierce protective behavior in the field,” said Gabor Csorba of the museum.

All the bats I held at bay had fierce dispositions. A given, really, since their modus operandi is to survive, and get out of the clutches of the evil demon, Homo sapiens. As I knew in 1994, bats represent a third of the known mammal species in South East Asia. As is true now,  the correct number of bat species in the region may be twice current count.

I must have held a hundred individual bats inside those caves.

End, Part One!

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