“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” — Rachel Carson
Unsweet iced tea, plain bagel (lightly toasted) with veggie cream cheese (on the side). My “usual” breakfast at the fine dining establishment known as Dunkin Donuts.
I sat outside, taking in the generous AZ sun, planning to go to the lovely Desert Foothills Library in Cave Creek to do some research and toy with some writing ideas. The library’s website said they were open until 4. Upon arrival, I discovered they were closed on this day after Thanksgiving.
So, I went for a walk in the adjacent Caroline Bartol Preserve at Saguara Hill.
Turned out to be so much better than a library visit.
I ascended Saguara Hill, the warmth of the sun pressing on my face, my soul absorbing the beauty of the day and the place.
I found the first sentence of the Rachel Carson quote carved on a bench along the path.
Sitting on the bench, I meditated on those words and felt a second warmth, an inner warmth, as I considered their truth.
The words to a song I learned at UUCE then played over and over in my mind, filling me with a third warmth.
In the second verse, “you” is substituted for “I.” In the last verse, “we” is substituted for “you.”
The cynic might regard this sung mantra as naïve, wishful thinking. Like a Miss America contestant hoping for “World Peace.”
I’ve come to think of it quite differently.
It’s about cultivating intention and a disposition. Towards ourselves, loved ones, acquaintances, strangers, and even those we might regard as enemies. All human accomplishment begins as imagination. Your smartphone began as an idea. Your car too. Someone sketched the home you live in long before any materials were gathered together for its actual construction.
The ideas/beliefs we plant in our hearts and minds matter. They are the seeds of what we will “grow” in our lives, the seeds of how we will relate to ourselves and others.
What if we were, in fact, filled with lovingkindness? What if we were, in fact, peaceful and at ease and whole?
We would have kick-ass souls.
Imagine a world full of people with kick-ass souls.
That’s a place I want to live!
When exploring the question, “Who am I?” I consider first a list of things I am not.
I’m not my body or my mind. I’m not my personality. I’m not my thoughts, feelings, or beliefs. I’m not the story I tell about my life. I’m not a list of chronological events that happened to me.
Let me clarify.
I seem to be (for now) “inhabiting” my body, but I am not arms, legs, a torso, and a head—I am the one within that house of flesh, bone, and blood.
I have a mind. It analyzes and dissects data (with the brain as its engine); but I am not simply a brain or even the data-sorter I call my mind. I’m the one who sees the mind’s activity.
I have a personality, which is largely a construct, a “face” I put on. This is who I want the world to see. Maybe it’s authentic, maybe it’s artifice; most likely, it’s an ever-shifting combination of the two. Subject to change. I am not that. I am the unchanging presence observing the machinations of the personality.
I have thoughts, feelings, and beliefs which arise from my personal narrative which includes the “history of me” from birth to today. Milestones. Trauma. Joy. Heartbreak. Ecstasy. Hurt. Loss. The good and the bad. All of these things matter, they have value—they should be examined, honored, evaluated, understood, felt, even cherished. They are the ways I experience being human. But they are not me. I am the one who thinks, feels, and interprets. I am the believer. I am the one who is aware of all these things. I am the one who is there, the witness.
Thoughts, feelings, beliefs—all the things I have listed—they are passing phenomenon, always in flux, varying in expression and intensity, they come and go like clouds or the weather.
The true “I” is like the unchanging sky, visited by clouds and weather.
Author and teacher Rupert Spira uses the metaphor of the movie screen and the movie to illustrate this concept.
The movie appears on the screen. In the movie, the image constantly changes. There’s a sunset. A bird soars across a darkening sky. Then, an explosion! No matter what the movie image is, the screen is unaffected. It is simply the medium upon which the images appear. The movie has a story. It’s happy. It’s sad. There are defeats and victories. Suffering and rapture. Life and death. The screen remains the same.
I am the screen. My life is the movie.
As the movie of my life unfolds, I will relish happy feelings and honor sad feelings; but I realize I don’t have to totally identify with them. They are not who I am. My thoughts and feelings very often aren’t entirely accurate and frequently they’re complete bullshit, arising out of fear, ignorance, and insecurity. They are subjective, confused, and biased—usually in a negative way. I don’t have to give them any real weight. I don’t have to be that bullshit story. I can question its legitimacy and relevance. I can get out from beneath the crushing negative narrative. I have a choice! I can find comfort in the pure being that is aware of my mind’s constructions.
Indian yoga guru Sadhguru puts it like this:
“There is a psychological reality in your head, and there is an existential reality which is life. Most people are mistaking their psychological reality to be existential.”
“Your thought and emotion,” he goes on to say, “have become more significant than the cosmos, isn’t it so?”
Yes! So often, we walk about totally immersed in the tiny drama we are generating inside our heads, as if it were somehow more real, more true, than the universe, than existence itself.
So often, it is this psychological drama that is causing our deepest suffering.
I know this has been true for me most of my adult life.
In the midst of heaven on Earth I have generated hell, simply by superimposing my primitive, messy, fucked up, hurt, lost, selfish, fearful, psychological drama over the simple, clear, beautiful reality of being a piece of life, given the profound privilege of watching the unfolding of God’s dream.
This doesn’t mean life can never be a nightmare. It can. But even when it is, I have a choice as to how much suffering I cause by getting caught up in the story I tell myself about it. Like the story about how unfair life is, how everything would be so much better “if only” this or that, and on and on with the never-ending self-pitying story my imagination is weaving, all about “poor me.”
May we shine more brightly in the light of the glorious beings we really are.
I encountered two “teachings” today, one in the digital world and one in the real world. One from a Christian perspective, the other from a Buddhist perspective.
Here is the Christian:
“At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God… This little point … is the pure glory of God in us. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely…”
–Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
Here is the Buddhist:
“Buddha compared our Buddha nature to a gold nugget in dirt, for, no matter how disgusting a person’s delusions may be, the real nature of their mind remains undefiled, like pure gold. In the heart of even the cruelest and most degenerate person exists the potential for limitless love, compassion and wisdom. Unlike the seeds of our delusions, which can be destroyed, this potential is utterly indestructible and is the pure, essential nature of every living being. Whenever we meet other people, rather than focusing on their delusions we should focus on the gold of their Buddha nature. This will not only enable us to regard them as special and unique, but also help to bring out their good qualities. Recognizing everyone as a future Buddha, out of love and compassion we will naturally help and encourage this potential to ripen.”
–Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, How to Transform Your Life
Parallel teachings. What a lovely gift on a Sunday.
Consider the amazing conspiracy of circumstances working non-stop to keep you alive.
Without you having to do a thing, your heart beats and your lungs breathe. Even when you’re fast asleep, these two persistent rhythms quietly manifest themselves, keeping the machine-that-is-you running.
Most of the time, your injuries heal and your illnesses surrender again to good health.
Conclusion: your body wants you to live.
Gravity holds you to the earth. The sun warms you. Phytoplankton and trees offer up oxygen for you. Plants and animals feed you. The sky gives you water to drink.
Conclusion: the universe sustains you.
These are pretty awesome powers that seem to be concerned with making sure you have the things you need to stay alive.
Of course, you can’t realistically ignore the forces at work in the world that might just take your life: tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires, poisonous plants and creatures, viruses and bacteria, and even a small fraction of human beings with bad intent. Add to this list countless random incidents and accidents that wait around every corner with the potential to injure or kill you, and you’re compelled to reckon with the unpleasant fact that there are plenty of threats out there.
Conclusion: the world is sometimes a dangerous place and, on any given day, remaining alive is not a guarantee.
Furthermore, whenever you pass by a cemetery, you’re reminded that there will come a day when your heart and lungs will stop expanding and contracting, regardless of any contrary plan you may have. So, even if you evade death by natural disaster, deadly stings or bites, homicide, or any of a thousand careless human blunders … you’re still going to die when your body decides it’s had quite enough.
Conclusion: we’re all going to die.
These truths make up the fulcrum upon which our lives are balanced.
I’m thankful that my body keeps on ticking (despite the fact that I haven’t always treated it well). So far, it’s seen me through more than 60 years of life. Maybe I should do a better job of caring for it, you know, to show my appreciation.
I’m thankful that the universe continues to operate as it does, constantly providing the things I need to live. I try not to take for granted the sun’s rising or the downpouring of rain beneath a harvest moon. I want to remain aware of the marvels of plant and animal life and how they contribute every day to my being alive.
I’m in awe of the ocean and the night sky. I’m astonished at the inexplicable variety of living things crawling, slithering, swimming, flying, and walking upon this amazing planet we call home.
I want to keep my mortality in mind as I go about my daily life. Life is uncertain and fragile. I want that to motivate me to live my best life. To love myself and others better. To prodigiously forgive myself and others.
Conclusion: let’s squeeze every drop of deliciousness out of the grapefruit that is our one earthbound life.
That’s a sentence I never imagined myself saying. But, damn, the bread at that little restaurant in Galena was off-the-freakin’-chart delicious!
What a weird world we’re in.
It’s hard to think of any aspect of life that COVID hasn’t made just a little suckier.
Yes, there I go, one of those people whining about some trivial inconvenience while people are dying. Which just proves my point.
I, myself, am a little suckier here in 2020. Apologies to all for my crass, thoughtless, callous, self-indulgent complaining (except you, coronavirus—you can go f**k yourself).
Wouldn’t it be lovely if I could say some super noble thing about what’s happening on the planet right now? Something that would reveal my amazing human compassion, my deep insight into pandemics and the sociopolitical truths behind the paralyzing media infodump coming at us from every corner, from every angle.
Yep, I really want you to believe that I know which news source is telling you the truth and which power monger, which asshole politician, has “no agenda but the truth.” (AS IF!)
As it turns out, I can actually do something sort of like that.
Because I have recently deployed a small army of omnipresent, invisible, undetectable, stealth drones that, even now, are hovering about the hallways, toilet stalls, secret rooms, and torture chambers of global power.
That’s right. I know what’s being said by people who don’t want you to know what they’re saying.
Of course, I can’t give you specifics. Or else they’d kill me. Duh. I’m not stupid. I don’t wanna be the next f****ng Alexei Navalny, dude. Not at all.
What I can tell you, is that people in positions of influence are consistently saying a few kinds of things.
- Things they think are the truth but aren’t because their source is shit.
- Things they know are lies but they want you to believe are true because it serves their narrative which they hope enhances their chance to implement their self-centered, power-and-greed motivated agenda.
- Things that are partial truths with certain critical details presented very selectively, other details embellished, and yet further details omitted entirely. Because such careful revision of information (this may sound familiar) serves their narrative which they hope enhances their chance to implement their self-centered, power-and-greed motivated agenda.
Sure, somewhere (no one knows where) someone is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But how would we recognize it? Who are we counting on to do the fact-checking? CNN? FOX news?
I want to believe my government cares about my well-being. I want to believe it is informing me out of its great reverence for human life.
Then I think about how my government has behaved throughout human history. Not just my government, but pretty much all governments. And institutions. Judicial. Military. Religious and secular. Conservative and liberal. Left and right. All of them doing things and saying things that serve their narrative which they hope enhances their chance to implement their self-centered, power-and-greed motivated agenda.
This is what they do. This is The Machine.
Some people in The Machine are well-intentioned. Some of them believe they are speaking the truth. Some of them are really trying to do good things.
Not too fucking many.
I’d let you know who they were but … well, you know what would happen.
Truth tellers are an endangered species. They don’t generally run for any public office. They’re usually outcasts.
Sometimes they’re executed.
Other than that, I’m fine.
How are you doing?
Most of the time, the world feels small. It’s the room you’re in. Familiar streets. Your neighborhood.
That’s the illusion though, right? Because we all know the world is … well, it’s really, really big.
You telescope out and it’s fucking big beyond all belief.
It’s a planet, a galaxy, a cosmos. You can’t even get it. Not really. The immensity of it is mostly abstract. Like when you look at a Hubble Space Telescope image that is mesmerizingly beautiful, but you don’t have any real understanding of what it is, not even after you read the description of it, which goes like this:
“The Crab Nebula, the result of a bright supernova explosion … is 6,500 light-years from Earth. At its center is a super-dense neutron star, rotating once every 33 milliseconds, shooting out rotating lighthouse-like beams of radio waves and light — a pulsar (the bright dot at image center). The nebula’s intricate shape is caused by a complex interplay of the pulsar, a fast-moving wind of particles coming from the pulsar, and material originally ejected by the supernova explosion and by the star itself before the explosion.” (https://hubblesite.org/image/4027/gallery/35-supernova-remnants)
I mean, if there’s a quiz you’re fucked. I am, anyway.
I’m a teensy-weensy living being with my teensy brain gazing at the indefinable, the unimaginable, the incomprehensible. Still, I reduce it all down to the Google pin I’ve plotted on the map where I am.
This is the truth to me. My spot on Earth. My field of vision.
I am one conscious being of nearly eight billion on the planet. One of 107 billion who have ever lived. (https://www.prb.org/howmanypeoplehaveeverlivedonearth/)
Yet, I am the center of my world, as you are yours.
My life is a momentary flicker that will wink out and be utterly forgotten in a generation or two. I am destined to be a worn, faded photo in a dusty box someone will look at one day and say to themselves, “I don’t know who this is.” The photo, then, is a thing to be thrown away because it no longer fits a narrative anyone is living.
I am nothing. I am everything. This is the irony, the paradox of being mortal.
Seize it. Love it, every little bit of it, while you can.
Love yourself, your body and soul. Love your family, friends, and tribe. Love strangers if you can. They’re amazing, all of them. Just like you. A flicker in time, occupying a pinpoint in space.
Part of the whole.
Dropped onto the playground of life from the hands of God.
(The “God part” is something I believe, but I don’t mind if you believe that you and I are merely astonishing biological accidents and the universe is simply “one of those things that happens from time to time.” I respect that conclusion and raise a beer to the audacity of my belief and your non-belief.)
Your life. The best gift ever. Can we agree on that?
Play on, brothers and sisters.
I grew up in a Christian church where there was a pretty significant emphasis on prayer. We prayed over everything: family meals, sick relatives, algebra tests, moral dilemmas … misplaced shoes. Seeking God’s blessing and help was an automatic response to the fraught drama of being human.
What did we think was going on in heaven? God was just lounging around, not sure what he ought to be paying attention to … then he heard us pray for Aunt Dorothy’s open-heart surgery to go well, so he sprang into action because we were so sincere? I mean, he was going to let her die, but since we prayed and all, God changed his mind and Dorothy came through with flying colors, going on to live another decade.
It would be pretty weird if God operated like that, arbitrarily intervening in human affairs: holding up airplanes through turbulence, guiding people home in blinding snowstorms, seeing to it that little Timmy survived brain cancer. Because the other side of that idea is that God is also allowing some planes to crash, letting some people freeze to death, and standing by while some children die of cancer.
Maybe I once believed something like that. I don’t anymore.
Yet I still pray. All the time, about all kinds of things.
My theology isn’t what it used to be. If you tried to pin me down about what I believe God is like, I’d struggle to sound coherent. Yet, I am a theist. And I don’t view God as an impersonal blob of energy.
I acknowledge that everything I believe may be wrong. It might just be the bullshit I tell myself so I can face life: this life that is full of wonder and terror, good and bad fortune, pleasure and pain, love and hate, joy and desperation and death. Maybe I’m not brave enough to handle all that without my “invisible friend.” I accept that possibility.
But my faith matters to me. God matters to me. Prayer matters to me.
So, when I pray for strength, for wisdom, for an extra dose of love and courage and faith to get me through something, or even for the welfare of others … what do I think God is doing in response?
I don’t know. It’s not my problem.
Everything is energy, right? We’re made of invisible spinning particles. We’re made of what the cosmos is made of. The universe made us. Our thoughts and emotions are energy. You can feel them move through you. When your heart breaks with love for someone who is suffering or in danger, that energy burns in you like an all-consuming fire. When you hope desperately on behalf of someone you love, that hope has weight and substance, it exists in the world as a measurable phenomenon.
My dear atheist friends, when you tell your loved one that you’ll be thinking of them while they’re having an operation … that’s your version of a prayer! When you wish someone “good luck” on their job interview or entrance exam … that’s you praying for them in your way. You are saying, “This is the intention of my heart for you. That you are well. That you are happy. That your life is good. That you find love and peace and purpose.” As an atheist, you see no divine agency moving in the background, still you are lobbing the energy of your positive intention into the universe, even if you believe at the end of the day that the universe is ultimately absolutely cold and indifferent to the desires of your heart.
Prayer is the energy of hope, lobbed into the universe.
Does prayer change how things turn out?
I don’t know. Maybe.
Prayer changes me. It alters my disposition. It softens me toward those I might perceive as enemies. Prayer reminds me that the sun is giving off light and warmth even when it is hidden behind clouds. It reminds me that I still feel the energy of love left behind by people who no longer walk among us. Prayer is the voice of human consciousness speaking to itself, connecting to a conscious universe that gave birth to mind and matter and love. Prayer (like faith) is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Prayer is a weird thing. But, it’s a weird thing in a pretty damn weird and mysterious universe. Life, it seems to me, frequently calls for silly things like faith, hope, and love, to get us through the challenges of the human drama. That’s my story. And I’m sticking with it.
1979. Hard to believe it’s really been 40 years since we walked out of Elgin High School for the last time as students.
In that time, we’ve seen 7 presidencies. We’ve witnessed U.S. military involvement in Grenada, Libya, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq and other places. We endured the tragedy of 9-11 and its social/political aftermath. We made our way through The Great Recession.
The Walkman became the Discman which became the iPod which became your cell phone.
Lynyrd Skynyrd was reborn. Van Halen broke up—over and over. Lennon, Marley, Harrison, Stevie Ray, Prince and Petty died. (Somehow, Ozzy and Keith Richards are still alive!)
A whole lot of stuff happened in four decades. Good, bad, and in-between.
In the meantime, we lived our lives.
And here we are.
Sadly, some of our friends and classmates didn’t live to see this day.
We did. Lucky us.
40 years out seems like a good point at which to contemplate Our Lives So Far.
Maybe your life has been (and is) largely very good: good health, a strong marriage, happy and healthy kids, career success, personal happiness, and financial stability. Maybe, as Jack Nicholson once put it in one of his famous roles, your life has been mostly “boat rides and noodle soup.” I hope so. If that’s you, I’m genuinely happy for you. You have much to be grateful for, and much to feel a sense of personal pride about. Kudos and a serious high-five to you!
That describes some of us, certainly. But … probably not most of us.
Where do you and I fit on the “It’s A Wonderful Life” continuum?
Well, we’re closing in on our sixth decade of life. That’s enough time to have assured that most of us have gotten our asses kicked somewhere along the way. Probably more than once.
A divorce we hadn’t planned on. An illness that scared the hell out of us. A prodigal child (or two). Unexpected loss of security. Deaths of people we loved very much.
Some bad stuff happened because we made poor choices. Some bad stuff just plain happened, regardless of how sensible our choices may have been. Same with good stuff.
I don’t really have any interest in comparing houses or cars.
Maybe that’s because it’s a comparison I wouldn’t come out looking too spectacular in. I’m honest enough to admit that. I haven’t reached a point where I’ve transcended all ego-driven thinking. Not by a long shot. I’d kinda like showing up in a pearl-white Escalade with my supermodel girlfriend. But, I’d have to rent both of those!
Really, I don’t care about your car or your house. I mean, if they’re super awesome? That’s great. It really is. It doesn’t make me resent you. It’s totally cool. You should appreciate and celebrate those kinds of things, enjoy them for all their worth.
“Happiness is fleeting. Grab it like a firefly and never let it go.” I love this quote. It’s both beautiful and true.
40 years out of high school, we are everywhere on the Happy and Secure continuum: from “Thriving Ridiculously” to “Almost Not Making It.”
We are each of infinite value, we each hold infinite promise, regardless of where we are on that imaginary line.
Our lives are always in flux. Blessings and hardships come and go. And they will just keep doing that. Until we breathe our last breath.
This breath, the one you’re pulling into your lungs right now, that’s the one real, tangible thing you and I have. Learning to see each one as an incredibly profound, magnificent, and mysterious gift … that’s our primary duty to ourselves and those we love … whether we live in a mansion with our lovely family, or are temporarily crashing on our cousin’s couch wondering if anyone in our family of origin has thought of us today.
I’d love to make myself the hero of this story, but that would be dishonest.
I’m just like you. I got some stuff right. I got some stuff terribly wrong. I’m a mixed bag. I’m still figuring it out.
I am, however, incredibly grateful. I was given so much. I still have so much. I am super fortunate and blessed in a thousand ways and I won’t allow myself to forget it.
I want to be a better person tomorrow than I was today. I want to grow as a person, in every way I can. I want to be less selfish and more loving. I want to hoard less, and give more.
I look forward to seeing Elgin High School’s Class of 1979 this weekend. If we can be open, warm, and kind towards each other, wouldn’t that be a great 40th anniversary gift to both give and receive?
That’s all I got.
Oh yeah … if we’re very fortunate indeed, we’ll see each other in 2029!
The tyranny of the necessary has a way of gobbling up our one true (and most fleeting) possession: time.
For this reason, and others, I haven’t made travel a priority in my life.
I did, however, commit this year to get up and go adventuring, at least a few times, beyond the borders of Illinois (my home state).
Early in 2019, I flew with a friend to San Diego for a few days. We casually biked and strolled along the ocean shoreline, walked in an exotic garden, dined and drank a little, shared some laughs, and just hung out.
This summer, I drove to Minnesota to meet up with a group of church friends for some pretty serious cycling on gorgeous trails that had once been railroad tracks. We pedaled, coasted, chatted, laughed, shared, philosophized, and encountered some lovely pies.
Just yesterday, I returned home from a visit with a friend in Denver. We hit a bike trail in the mountains, went hiking at Red Rocks in Morrison, saw Bruce Hornsby at a beautiful outdoor music venue, and enjoyed deep conversation and warm companionship.
Each of these small adventures was a nice break from the well-defined rituals and necessary chores of my daily life. I got to see new places, have some fun, and enjoy the company of people I like and admire.
But there’s something else about these travels that make them unique among human experiences.
The movement itself, the traversing of distance … watching mile after mile of American topography pass by … brought some things into sharper focus for me.
I’m on a planet.
Duh, right? Of course, this is something we all know; but, when you’re mostly occupying such a very small and familiar patch of ground, it can start to feel like this is it. Like, my reality is this fifty-sqaure-mile zone. We make the mistake of sensing that the truth is what we can see.
Ah, but no. The truth is bigger. So much bigger.
Vast, stretching plains, forests and farmland, rolling hills, creeks, lakes, rivers, mountains … it’s all out there under the sun, visited by wind and rain, beautiful and alive, teeming with every variety of plant and animal life, humming and thriving. Whether we see it or not, it’s there.
Our home isn’t just the structure over our heads or the geography of our hometown.
We live in a state, in a country, on a continent, within a hemisphere, on a planet with a total surface area of about 197 million square miles.
You feel that just a little more when you actually see a stretch of 1,000 miles—one moving image at a time—in a single day. I’ve been reminded of my world’s glorious expanse, and that reality hums in my head now like a newly discovered favorite song.
Telescope out, and we see that we’re in a solar system that’s in a galaxy that’s in a universe … and we start to feel pretty small.
Yet, here we are. Living, conscious beings, uniquely equipped to take in and translate all this natural wonder through the astonishing gift of sensory perception. Lucky us.
Truth is big.
The other thing that came home to me as I zipped through all that territory, is the subtle reality of impermanence.
There I was, moving on a highway at 70-80 miles per hour, across a planet that is spinning (if you’re on the equator) at 1,000 mph, as it hurtles through space at 66,667 mph. So, every micro-second my position in the universe is … well, radically shifting. I’m virtually never in the same space for any kind of measurable time. Which is much like the present moment. It comes and goes at lightning speed, already fading away as soon as it arrives. This is the impermanence of time and space.
The gift we get is now. Right now. This very second is the only opportunity we have to live on this spinning sphere. It isn’t when the workday is over, or when the weekend gets here, or when our vacation arrives, or when we find love, or when we retire. It’s NOW. Always now. Always fleeting, and always a gift beyond comprehension. This breath. This heartbeat. This step. Seize it, squeeze it for all it’s worth, baby … ‘cause it’s whizzing by faster than the speed of light!
We can convince ourselves that this material world is solid, because that’s how we experience it. Your body, a table, the ground under your feet, mountains … you can touch them, push against them, and feel their substance. You forget they’re composed of invisible particles in constant motion. Every visible thing is made up of madly-spinning invisible things. Crazy.
Your body loses and gains atoms, all day, every day. Ninety-eight percent of the atoms in your body are replaced yearly. You are literally, materially, a new person, every year. It’s an invisible truth, but truth nonetheless.
This is impermanence.
I want it to remind me of the stunning miracle of being alive. The incomprehensible gift that belongs to me every time I draw a breath. I want to see that there are no mundane moments. They’re all amazing. I want to feel that there’s no such thing as a wasted breath. Each one is an unrepeatable and miraculous occurrence. It’s mine. And it’s yours.
So often we seem to be seeking comfort in what we think we can know about our world, looking for “facts” to shape our reality, as if this were where comfort and safety might be found.
As if what our intellects can grasp, were the truth.
Ah, but no. The truth is bigger. So much bigger. In the realm of human experience, accurate data are very useful; but meaning is what we crave, not some sort of list of ingredients of which material reality is composed.
What does impermanence tell us about what life means?
What matters? What’s critical and what’s trivia?
A question for us all to ponder as we make plans on a world that spins at 1,000 mph, as it hurls through space at 66,667 mph, no two micro-seconds alike.
How, then, shall we live?