The Nightshirt Sightings, Portents, Forebodings, Suspicions

GI Joe

There was, I feel quite sure, a commercial when I was a kid, on Saturday mornings, for a GI Joe helicopter that had a winch and a rope hook that could lower GI Joe down and raise him back up at the flip of a small switch. I remember a boy (in the commercial) playing with this toy, the blades of the copter whirling, and Joe dangling down down down to some enemy territory—perhaps it was a real houseplant or tuft of grass in the backyard—the soldier’s brave inert body sort of dangling there against the turf and mud, body steeply angled, impassive face and sculpted plastic head looking slightly to the side, arms stiffly forward, his toes catching the ground and dragging along.

I think about this ad when I think about life. In our plastic posable bodies we are lowered from some toy aircraft by a ten-year-old, and dragged along the ground. The “bush” we find ourselves in is our existence. The philosopher Heidegger wrote of a human being’s “thrown-ness” into life, but he could have said our “dropped-ness” our “dangled-ness” too. What we do with our lives is our test. We need to accomplish some mission this ten-year-old-up-in-the-sky dimly has in mind for us before we will be raised back up.

The thing is, perhaps the kid forgets the mission, or really never had a clear idea of it to begin with. Perhaps he has put down the toy helicopter and gone to play with another toy, or been called in to dinner or off to school, or perhaps he has grown up and is now far, far away, with only dim memories if any of this one of a myriad pieces of plastic in his childhood.

Yet there you are. GI Joe. Descended from a helicopter in the backyard.

Dragged in the mud.

You were put in the world, dropped off at a certain place, with a certain body (stiff plastic arms raised forward, head cocked to one side, vacant blue stare) and you were given time.


I am a science writer and armchair Fortean based in Washington, DC. Write to me at eric.wargo [at]

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