My heart sings for small towns not for the crumbling, faded houses or the hollow eyes that inhabit them but for the spaces in between humanity the thick undergrowth of untouched hillsides the silence that surrounds you as you emerge at the street's abrupt end winding roads turning to dust as they weave through valleys and stitch the mountains together no turns in sight as you faithfully follow for miles to a singular destination in the distant country, past oceans made of tall grasses and grazing cattle where the open sky is unhindered by smog and skyscrapers and you can feel yourself shrinking beneath the infinity of distant stars or cradled by the buoyant brushstrokes of soft clouds in an endless canvas of blue swallowed up, dissolved, and made whole again all at once I've always found safety in the subtle symphony of places far away from people the silent prayer of bare feet against the warm earth sunlight filtered through gently rustling leaves the tender cadence of countless other lives swelling and saturating every cell of my being bowing down in reverence to this ancient rhythm Separation from source is the truest form of suffering caged inside the arrogant design of human kind cut off from the wind and light set aside to sit in sterile cells tangled up in selfish isolation eating ourselves alive No, I'd rather wade into the cool embrace the filthy, glistening grandeur of the river memorize the ever changing melody of chirping birds and tiny insects the healing buzz of their constant vibration lapping at the shores of my truest self reminding me of my part in the song
a wasted life is spent indoors away from the forest floor mesmerized by straight lines and artificial symmetry souls stripped down and soaked in bleach spotless feet pacing over pale plastic tiles separation from source cut off from the stillness inside dharma replaced by distraction until we no longer know value when we see it lives spent chasing after emptiness buried in bullshit brutality as a birthright white knuckling our way to the top of inverted pyramids what is success? being a CEO? building ourselves up with the broken body of mother nature? I'd rather be nothing at all I'd rather let myself be blown away by the wind to disappear into the tall grass if only to remember the cool caress of the soft, dark soil back where I belong
Total disassociation, fully out your mind. Googling derealization, hating what you find. That unapparent summer air in early fall. The quiet comprehending of the ending of it all.Funny Feeling – Bo Burnham
The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. Over the past six or seven years I’ve gone through all of these stages. Now it feels like I teeter back and forth between depression and acceptance. Seven years may seem like a rather long time to grieve, but it’ll sound more appropriate when I explain that I am not grieving the death of a loved one or a romantic relationship. No, I am grieving the earth, my own life, all life. I am grieving the slow, steady death of our planet and all that it holds.
When I first discovered just how close we already were to the end of everything, I was furious. How could those in power and those that came before me ignore this, and even worse, continue contributing to it? The bitter hatred for humanity I already harbored sharpened like a knife’s edge, cutting me deeper than it ever had before. Then I felt passionately compelled to stop our frenzied descent toward destruction. In desperation, I implored people to share my concern about what leading environmental scientists were saying, to do all that they could in a personal capacity to make a difference, even if it was hard, even if it still might already be too late.
Naively in the beginning, I really thought the issue was that people did not know the information that I knew, and that if they did, they would understand and take action. Depression and despair quickly set in when I realized that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t only that people didn’t know. They refused to know. As I passed through the stages of grief alone, the rest of the world hangs idle in the “denial” phase. Even though I desperately want others to be by my side through this process, I’ve come to accept that they won’t be. I’ve even begun to feel it’s a mercy that they don’t believe the things I tell them. While I want my friends, family, and community to understand the dire situation we are in, I don’t want them to suffer with that knowledge like I have for all of these years. However, in case there are people out there that feel the weight of this impending doom like I do, I want to at least share a few of the ways in which I’ve been managing to cope.
One: Historical Perspective
One of the hardest parts of all this in the beginning was feeling robbed of the long life we are implicitly promised as children. It seemed so unfair to know that I would never experience old age, that I would live only half as long as I had anticipated. Sometimes I found myself wishing that I had been born in a different time so I wouldn’t have to see the world go up in smoke one day.
I soon realized that this isn’t really something I would want. For the vast majority of human history, my life would have been far worse and perhaps even shorter. As a woman I would have had no rights or freedom. I would have likely died by now in childbirth or from some horrible misunderstood disease. The average human life expectancy for a large portion of history was roughly 30 years.
I’ll still hopefully get to live for a decade or two more than that. Not to mention the quality of these 30-50 years of mine will be far superior to the quality of billions of peoples throughout history. I’ve experienced more novelty, luxury, comfort, and pleasure than the vast majority of humans that have lived. And that I am truly grateful for.
Two: Life Will Go On
It’s no secret that I don’t care much for humanity and it’s consistent habit of committing atrocities against other beings and each other. The idea of the human race ending, pretty much means nothing to me. We are a plague on this earth and all her other creatures. But the idea that because of our stupidity, greed, and selfishness the rest of the life of earth would also perish with us was unbearable to me. I look out at the complexity, the diversity, the staggering beauty of the world around me, and I can’t cope with thinking it will all disappear with us.
Learning of the animals that are still thriving in the ghost town that is Chernobyl gave me some hope. Yes, a huge portion of the life we now know of on earth will surely be wiped out by the effects of manmade climate change and the resulting wars over the remaining resources. Yet, life in general, is more resilient than I once believed. All life will not end. Some creatures will survive even this. And in time they will grow and evolve and repopulate this decimated planet until it is vibrant and flourishing yet again. One day there will be a beautiful, new earth free from the tyranny of humans. That thought brings me some peace.
Three: Purpose is Relative
When the heavy thoughts of our fast approaching end cloud my mind, one of the main themes becomes: What’s the point? Why should I continue on knowing that the end will be suffering and annihilation? I might as well just give up. Nothing matters.
These thoughts, while poignantly felt, are puzzling to me. Why should the end being sooner rather than later effect the meaning I find in life? Whether I die at 40 or 80, there will be immense fear and suffering. That isn’t something that I would escape if the world weren’t dying with me. Besides, life is not a guarantee. I could have died in my sleep last night. I could die in a car accident tomorrow. I could have developed leukemia as a child and not lived past the age of 7.
Purpose and meaning are not dependent on the length or last sentence in this book called life. I get to decide my own purpose. I determine the meaning behind all of this. The significance of my life is not forfeited due to the sudden realization that it will be much shorter than anticipated. My life matters, my happiness matters, the love I have for others matters, regardless of when death finds me.
Contemplating and combating these discouraging, depressing thoughts is what I am tasked with now. My greatest lesson in life will be learning how to be present and grateful for where I am now, regardless of what may come in the following moment. I’ve fought and screamed. I’ve begged for the world to stop this. I’ve surrendered to my sadness and helplessness in the face of this calamity. Now all that’s left is acceptance. The severity of my fate is not what I had ever expected, but it isn’t something that can be changed or avoided. There is peace in accepting that. Through acceptance I will salvage the time that I do have. I still have time to fill with joy and love and awe, and the gratitude I feel for that fact is enough to get me through anything. It’s enough to carry me into the end.
With the Earth, our environment and ecosystems, collapsing and crumbling away beneath our feet the obvious solutions and the urgency of implementing them have gone largely unacknowledged by the vast majority of the human race. No one seems interested in resolving the problem or undoing the damage that our species has caused. (Not that we have enough time now anyway.) No, instead people are entirely focused on the idiotic idea of moving society into space permanently.
It is absolutely surreal to see just how many people are giddy with excitement about the Elon Musks of the world burning up our extremely limited resources to jerk themselves off through space travel. Why the fuck was Jezz Bezos wearing a god damn cowboy hat for his purposeless rocket launch? It’s like I’m living in some kind of bizarre dream where I’m the only one with any concerns about the absurdity of all this.
It has never made sense to me why everyone seems to be obsessed with outer space and space travel. Sure it’s neat to wonder what might be out there. Surely somewhere, light years away, far past our current technology’s ability to travel, something is out there. However, the fact remains that we have no ability to know that and won’t for the foreseeable future. If we had matters handled on our own planet and were living in some kind of utopia, I think space travel would be an intriguing and worthwhile investment of our time and money.
I’m not arguing that it isn’t interesting to think about or that there isn’t a great potential for exploration and discovery in that final frontier. What I am saying is that at this moment, with the dire consequences of man-made climate change looming just beyond our doorsteps, who the hell cares about space? It’s utterly irrelevant. Our continued attempts to send out rockets and satellites is not only worthless, it is exacerbating our impending doom here on Earth, by burning obscene amounts of fossil fuels.
Some of you might already be thinking, “But we’ve got to do these things so that we can live in space or on Mars once our planet has become uninhabitable.” Guess what? That’s fucking stupid. And perhaps even more importantly, impossible. Sure, if we had unlimited time and resources, I’m positive humanity would be able to live in space or on other planets. The hard truth that no one seems to be aware of or able to accept is: WE DON’T HAVE THAT KIND OF TIME.
I get so frustrated when I hear people discuss climate disasters and societal collapse as if it is a distant possibility that their grandchildren might have to deal with one day. What the absolute fuck is anyone even talking about? WAKE UP. WE are going to be the ones facing these things in just a few decades, if that. We’re are beginning to face them even now. And it’s only going to continue to get worse and accelerate as we proceed to ignore/compound the problem.
The last thing I’ll say is this: Say I concede to these irrational and unbelievable ideas that the human species will be able to completely migrate into space or Mars or whatever before we all die here on the Earth we’ve destroyed. There we are, sending off the last pieces of humanity into the cosmos as our Earth burns behind us, do you really think we’d be able to mentally and emotionally cope? I for one, will lie down and die with this planet, before I abandon it on a rocket ship.
WE ARE PART OF THE EARTH. Our outright denial of this fact is what got us to the destruction of the natural world in the first place, and it is what continues to keep us from doing what needs to be done to save it. As much as our species likes to pretend that we are separate from or even above other life forms, the Earth, and nature, it’s simply not true. We are inextricably intertwined with this environment that has always been our home. We are already collectively suffering from the comparatively mild separation our modern technologies have resulted in. Does no one else notice the correlation between humanity’s rapid self-isolation from the natural world and the dramatic increase in mental illness and dissatisfaction/frustration with life?
Whether you believe in divine intention or natural selection, we were made for this planet. Our very essence has been meticulously woven to thrive in these environments over billions of years. Isn’t anyone even going to consider the long-term effects of living apart from the Earth??? Haven’t we already learned enough times how even something seemingly innocuous that is contrary to our natural lives becomes corrosive to us eventually? Forgetting the mental/emotional toll, we already know the serious physical ailments that result from relatively short amounts of time spend beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.
I don’t know. I guess I’m just inconsolable on this topic. It is unimaginably disheartening to see just how little most of the world cares about the Earth. To even consider leaving it seems horrific and unacceptable to me, let alone being excited about it as most people seem to be. Not to mention the absolute disregard we humans have for all the other forms of life we are willing to let perish in our wake. It’s disgusting. It’s obscene. It’s unconscionable. I have never been more ashamed to call myself a human being.
Nature is truly remarkable in its ability to adapt to ever changing conditions. Not only do individual species evolve, but the whole earth seems to shift and grow as time marches on to accommodate new creatures and circumstances and keep everything relatively stable. For a long time now it has seemed that human beings are some kind of wild aberration of nature, something that mother earth has no hope of adjusting to fast enough for our existence to be sustainable. Every now and then I’ll see something that gives me some form of dark hope for our planet though, some otherwise strange development in nature that no one seems able to explain. Just when I think mother earth has finally succumb to our brutality and greed, she surprises me with another clever innovation to overcome our destruction.
A few years ago on the news there was a lot of talk about a new species of tick. Apparently people who were bitten by this tick didn’t contract lyme disease or anything serious. No, this tick did something much more innocuous, yet important. It made its victims allergic to meat. I don’t recall how common this tick was or where about in the world it was located, but I remember at the time half-heartedly joking about procuring one of these little buggers to breed and systematically unleash on the world. If people couldn’t make the choice to go vegan to save the animals, themselves, and the planet, I would work hand in hand with mother earth to force them to. And I would have felt completely justified in doing so. Eating meat is one of those tricky “personal choices” that isn’t so personal when you realize the effect on others. It might be your choice to litter or pollute the water supply, but I doubt anyone would try to defend that as a right. (Even though pig farming is one of the biggest polluters of water ways.) But I digress.
I waited to see if anything would come of this miraculous little tick, but soon this news story faded into the background like so many others with little impact. Just yesterday though it occurred to me that mother earth may have a new trick up her sleeve with Covid-19. Ticks may not be capable of spreading around the globe very quickly, but a virus certainly can, especially this one. From the moment this pandemic started, I felt in my heart that it was nature’s immune system trying to rid it of another virus, us. Still, it made me wonder. After all, Covid is deadly, but not nearly as deadly as other illnesses that have sprung up in the past. No, it seemed as though Covid’s goal wasn’t explicitly to kill, but to spread quickly and over great distances.
One of the more peculiar symptoms of this virus has been the loss of taste and smell, particularly in that these senses often do not return after recovering from the virus. I recalled my coworker saying it wouldn’t be all bad to lose his taste. At least then he would be able to eat healthy with no qualms. I absentmindedly thought to myself, well maybe he’d even go vegan. (Not that vegan foods are not exceptionally delish, mind you. Meat eaters just assume they aren’t.) At this, I nearly jumped out of my chair at the poetic justice of it all. NO TASTE! THAT’S IT!
All of a sudden it felt as though I could hear the earth saying: Oh, fucking taste is the reason you continue to kill me? That stupid sensory pleasure is your excuse for slaughtering and consuming billions of animals every year, wasting my resources, and poisoning my environment? haha bacon tho? How about never tasting anything again? Maybe that will suit you better. If that’s what it takes to make you finally stop this madness.
One of the most frustrating parts of being a vegan is presenting all the important, essential reasons we must, as a species, change our diet if we hope to survive, and the unspeakable atrocities we commit every day by eating animals, only to be met with the counter argument, “but I like how meat and dairy taste.” It is absolutely infuriating and exasperating. It’d be like if we actively helped start and spread wildfires because “ooo, pretty.” It’s fucking stupid.
I am far too cynical to believe that the human race collectively losing its sense of taste would actually make people stop eating and abusing sentient beings. I am still curious to see what effect this will have on the human diet. It would be nice to imagine that with every last one of their already idiotic and irrelevant excuses gone, people would make the easy and obvious choice to adopt a vegan diet, but I have little hope of that happening. I’m sure everyone will just come up with some other illogical reason to continue on just as they are. Still it gives me hope to think that all is not lost. Mother earth hasn’t surrendered just yet. She is testing out new strategies all the time. Unfortunately we seem committed to forcing her hand and giving the unspoken ultimatum “kill us all or we will kill ourselves and everything there is.” I sincerely hope it does not come to that, but I’m not holding my breath for humans to change.
Scientists are discovering new things about outer space every day. Recently they’ve even been able to look outside of our solar system and find other planets. With at least 100 billion stars within the Milky Way Galaxy alone, that means there are potentially a billion or more planets capable of sustaining life just like our Earth. Not to mention that there are billions more galaxies in the universe. It’s hard to even conceptualize just how much life may be out there that we don’t know about.
When I was confronted with this information, I started to get really curious about just how much I don’t know about existence. We tend to live our lives with the assumption that we know all of the information we need to to make accurate predictions and life decisions. Sometimes I am even paralyzed by my need to collect all the information before making a choice. Realizing that I’ll never be able to know everything takes a bit of that pressure off. It also helps me let go of my fears and worries about things going on on the other side of the world. It’s not that it doesn’t matter. I’m sure what happens on these other planets throughout our universe matters too, but that doesn’t mean I need to concern myself with it.
It’s important for us to realize that the events we know about don’t even come close to the information we could potentially know. So it’s okay to narrow your scope. We don’t need to know everything. What’s best is for us to each focus on our own small community first. It used to make me anxious to consider not staying updated on foreign affairs and global politics. Eventually I’ve come to realize that exposing myself to the weight of the world, is only hurting my ability to help. I become overwhelmed. I don’t know where to start. I feel hopelessly incompetent to make a significant difference in the world. With all of these serious issues looming over our world, it feels pointless to do something so small as community service in my small area. After all, what will that matter in the grand scheme of things?
There’s the problem. Focusing too much on the “grand scheme” leaves us feeling helplessly overwhelmed. We lose sight of the significance of doing what we can for our own communities in light of the endless global issues happening every day. But here in our own communities is the place that all those bigger issues can start to be addressed. We may not be able to end world hunger, but we can support our local soup kitchen, and that matters. We may not be able to influence global politics, but we can have an impact on what goes on in our home town. Maybe we can’t end homelessness, but you can offer food, money, and kindness to the unhoused man you pass by on the corner every day. We get so caught up in changing the world that we forget the power we have to change individual lives, and that’s just as good. If everyone did what they could for their own village, town, or city, those small acts would create a ripple effect, eventually changing the world.
You may be thinking, well everyone won’t try to create positive change in their own community, so why bother? This is the argument I get against veganism all the time. We won’t be able to end animal agriculture, so I might as well keep eating meat. I definitely get the thought process behind this response. However, it’s never been a good enough reason for me not to try. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Sure maybe all that comes of your efforts is that one person has a good day. Maybe my veganism only spares one single animal from slaughter. That’s still better than nothing. That’s still enough for me. That’s still worth it. At the end of the day I still know that I’ve tried my best. We can’t control what others do, but we can control what we do and hope that our example may inspire others to join us. And that’s how every big change was started, just one person doing what they believe is right, regardless of what the rest of the world does or doesn’t do in response.
If you still find yourself feeling hopeless, consider this. Even if we end suffering on our planet, there are potentially billions and billions of other planets still struggling with similar problems. Does that make the progress we’ve made irrelevant? Of course not! So why should we belittle our local impact simply because it won’t change the entire world? Sometimes widening our perspective is just what we need to realize it’s okay to narrow our focus. Just do what you can, and don’t worry about the rest. Let the other pieces fall where they may. You’ll at least know that your piece is being taken care of.
I have always lived out in the country. At my childhood home, my parents had four acres of land lined with dense woods. Although most of the woodland area didn’t belong to us, we would always wander down through the trees to the charming stream at the bottom of the steep valley. This was one of my favorite activities when I was growing up. As I got older I would explore further and further down the stream in both directions. I have many stories of adventures in those woods with my friends, my family, my dogs, or even just by myself. I treasure the time I spent there and don’t plan on selling that house or the land even once my parents pass.
Even when I moved out to an apartment while attending college, there were plenty of gorgeous deep woods for us to explore right off campus and right outside our apartment complex. My college was nestled high in the hills of West Virginia, only visible after a long drive on winding back roads. It was almost like a small village hidden in the trees. Even now I only live a short walk from the river and can wander up into the trees right behind my house whenever I want to. I’ve always had the advantage of having nature right in my backyard.
The other day at work, we were talking with a girl who was originally from a big city. She was exasperated by the lack of people and places to go in our area. She even complained that she missed looking outside and seeing houses and buildings. Now when she looked outside she would just see cows. I said it at the time and I’ll say it again, who would rather look at buildings than cows?! Its baffling to me that some people would actually prefer living in a crowded city. To me that has always seemed like a nightmare.
It’s strange to think that most people actually live in cities now. Each year humanity becomes more and more separated from the Earth. I find that terribly sad. To think that some people have lived their whole lives within the confines of New York City for instance. Even Central Park or other state parks in more populated areas don’t do the true majesty of nature justice. While I was in awe at the unique, natural landscapes in Hocking Hills State Park when I was there, it was still somewhat spoiled by the sheer number of other people there, making that serene, calming environment noisy and crowded. There is a special magic that can only be found alone in the silence of nature. It breaks my heart to think that so many people will never experience that. There are even plenty of people that have no desire to.
I believe that humanity has lost something crucial to our survival when we severed our ties with the natural world. For so many centuries we viewed the harsh conditions of the outdoors as our enemy, not realizing that it was also an essential part of us. Not realizing that it has the potential to heal as well as harm us. That we need its nourishing energy to be happy and healthy and fully alive. We have all come from the earth and whether we want to accept it or not, we are still a part of the earth.
I know a lot of people that have hopeful fantasies about humanity living in space or on Mars one day. This has always seemed like an impossible, as well as idiotic plan to me. Humans think space will save us once this planet has been utterly killed. Yet no one seems to realize what life separated from our Earth mother might really be like. I imagine life in space to be absolutely desolate and devoid of all of the things I love about being alive. I truly would not want to live if it meant being apart from the Earth. That would be no life at all to me.
And sadly that life apart is something so many humans already seem to be living, oblivious to the majesty of life that they are missing out on. Even people living in smaller towns with a grassy patch of backyard to themselves, can’t comprehend the meaningful time I have been able to spend in nature all my life. Sitting by a single tree behind a fence as neighbors drive by or mow their lawns cannot compare to being fully immersed in the deep, green forest, or all alone on the bank of a great river. The former is a sad substitute for the latter.
I believe it is because so many of us have spent our lives separated from nature that we have so easily been able to continue destroying every piece of it. So many people see this as necessary development, as “progress.” They don’t realize that what humanity builds, while impressive and amazing at times, can never compare to what nature has already provided for us. When so many people have lived their whole lives away from the natural world, it’s no wonder they are unable to grasp the importance of it.
I don’t know that there is any way to help so much of humanity realize what they have been missing out on. Like many things lately, it seems like a lost cause. However, contemplating all of these other lives I could have led, makes me so grateful for the life I have. It has truly been a blessing to grow up and experience this little sliver of existence the way I have been able to. To be accustomed to only the sounds of bird calls, rustling leaves, and running water outside my windows my entire life. To have spent so many days barefoot, with the warm soil between my toes, walking through the shallow water of a clear stream. Collecting enough wild berries at the edge of my yard with my grandmother and sister to make a pie. Always having plenty of space to garden or simply bask in the sun. To have always had loyal, loving, innocent animals at my side. To be able to gaze at a sky full of stars each night I have been alive. I would not trade this life of mine for anything.
I will be grateful for this day.
I will be grateful for each day to come.– Bright Eyes
After watching the devastating documentary, Seaspiracy, on Sunday, I feel as though I was given a death sentence. I imagine it feels similar to going to your doctor and being diagnosed with a terminal illness. In some ways it’s not that bad. I should at least have a few decades rather than only a few months or years. Additionally, I’ll hopefully be able to enjoy good health up until that point. However, in other ways it is worse. A terminal illness is merely a personal end. Whereas, this will result in the end of all life. Certainly all human life.
I actually cried on my drive to work this morning. I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the trees and the grass on the side of the highway, the cows calmly grazing in the fields, the sun, the atmosphere, the air we breathe. How much longer do I have to bask in the absolutely majesty of these things? How much time have I spent allowing myself to be distracted by insignificant nonsense? Why have I continued to waste my time and energy on anything other than love?
It is really hard for me to fully wrap my mind around all the information I now have. I feel as though I need to start living each day as if it were my last. How exactly do I do that though? That has been my issue. Even with death hanging over my head, it is still surprisingly hard to let go of all of my ridiculous habits. It feels like I have been primed since childhood to plan for the future. We are all encouraged by our schools, by our families, to make decisions and go about our days in ways that will benefit us in the future. Being able to delay gratification is a coveted and admired character trait. Years of living each day with my mind in the distant future, has made it quite hard to be comfortable just living in the present moment.
I don’t want to waste any more of the limited time I have to love and be loved on this dying planet in the middle of the vacuum of space. I have been reminding myself to be grateful for every moment. I am even going to invest in some books about coping with death and mortality. I was actually somewhat excited and relieved when I realized that these types of resources might be able to help me. For years now I have been struggling with how to seek help for myself given that most people don’t take my concerns seriously. Viewing this as a terminal illness has really allowed me to open my eyes to the vast amount of self-help materials that are out there for me.
Yesterday, my mother, who is skeptical about all of this data, asked me what the point of people making these documentaries is if we are all doomed anyway? I’ve been taking some time to think about that myself. It seems like the people that make these films somehow still hold out hope that we will be able to come back from this. I personally think they are in denial. However, even though I believe we no longer have a chance to change things, I still feel the need to spread this information and share it with those around me. I didn’t really understand why I felt it was important to do that though.
After giving it a lot of thought, I’ve decided that it is still important to get this information out there even if nothing can be done. It is important because I think people have the right to know this information. Most won’t believe it, but that’s their choice. I just want to make sure that for those that are willing to accept this data, they are given the opportunity to know about this harsh reality. Perhaps this will give them the motivation to live these final years in a more meaningful way. Maybe others will have moments of simple joy and happy tears just from the sight of trees and grass like I did this morning. Either way, I believe that knowledge is important in its own right. Reality matters.
For me, I am going to use this grim information to inspire me to live what remains of my life in a way I can be proud of. I want to give away all the love I have within me before my time is up. I want to be helpful and make a difference in the lives of those around me, those I care about. I want to savor each sweet moment of experience on this beautiful Earth. I’m going to spend more time outside in the sun, feeling the cool soil beneath my feet. I’m going to spend more time with my loved ones. I may not be able to save the world, but I can save myself by being grateful for the time I have.
Everything’s a cycle. You’ve gotta let it come to you. And when it does, you will know what to do.– Bright Eyes
Happy spring, everyone! I am so pleased to welcome this most lovely of seasons back again. While I adore the summer months, spring is probably my true favorite. There is nothing quite like the fresh, bright, vibrant energy of this time of year. There is so much beauty in contrast. I’ve always found it funny the way 55-60 degree weather in the fall seems dreadfully cold to me, yet the very same temperature is a godsend in the spring. At the end of the year I’d consider this weather too chilly for a walk, but now I am itching to be outdoors in the sunshine again. I used to dream about moving somewhere south so that I wouldn’t have to experience the snow and bitter cold of winter every year, but as I’ve grown older I’ve developed an attachment to this area of the country. Sometimes we need to face discomfort or adversity in order to fully appreciate and savor the rest of life. There is a lot that the cycling of seasons has to teach us if we are willing to witness their endless unfolding.
There is a strange comfort that repetition brings us. This constant ebb and flow that exists everywhere in this life is truly something beautiful to behold. This constant churning keeps life from becoming stagnant. It really is true that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Without the colorless cold, the bitter wind, the once lush trees reduced to creaking black skeletons, we would not be able to fully appreciate watching the landscape come alive again. We wouldn’t be able to experience this bustling, rustling, vibrating energy as the earth comes alive once more. The sensation of new life, of awakening, of hope that spring stirs within us is unparalleled. It never gets old no matter how many years we have had here.
Spring reminds us that we need not fear the winter. It also insinuates that we need not fear even death. Imagine how frightened the first conscious creatures were that lived through winter. Surely with no guarantee, I would have assumed all was ending forever. Just as many of us feel facing death without faith in a god or an afterlife. There are no guarantees. No scientific evidence that we can analyze to suggest that anything exists beyond our final breaths. Still I find my own kind of faith in all of the cycles I see around me every day. Some cycles are as short as the ever-present rhythm of the breath, some are too long for us to comprehend or observe in a single lifetime. But I trust in the cyclical systems that surround us, that are within us, that we are inextricably involved in. While I may not be able to say what the cycle of life and death fully looks like, or even what it means for me, I am confident it is still a cycle all the same. I may not be there to witness the spring that blooms on the other side of my existence on this earth, in this body, in this mind, but I am confident that that spring exists. But for now, while I am still here, I am going to keep trying to learn from these cycles, to be mindful of them, to be grateful for them, to be patient with them, and to honor and accept where I am within them.
I’ve always thought of myself as a very self-centered person. Autism could be a contributing factor to a lot of my more selfish tendencies. It’s not ever been a malicious selfishness. I’m not acting in my own interest at the expense of others. If I ever have, I’ve only unwittingly done so. It’s more like sometimes I forget to consider other people entirely, because I am too busy being consumed by my own inner world. I can still remember when I was very young, noticing that other people would often compliment someone else’s clothing or hair, etc. I remember asking my mom why I never felt the urge to do that, even if I did like something about someone else. I assumed it was only because I was shy and socially anxious. Only after I began forcing myself to compliment people did it become a comfortable, natural habit. I was surprised to discover that it even made me happy.
As I continue to get older, I’ve noticed myself becoming more and more interested in being of use to other people. And the way that thinking of and helping others is its own reward. I once thought selfishness was just a personality trait. I’ve now started to wonder if it’s simply an aspect of youth. I remember hearing about older people focusing their remaining energies on giving back to the community and supporting their family. It seems like in the later stages of life, giving back, sharing what you’ve learned and acquired with others, becomes the most personally fulfilling thing. I always had a hard time imagining myself in this role. Now it doesn’t seem so far-fetched.
I’ve heard the metaphor of life being compared to a wave in the ocean. In the beginning we are one with the sea, then we crest for a time, the illusion of an individual entity, before eventually falling back into the water we came from. The longer I live, the more convinced I become of two things about this life: Everything is a cycle, and everything is one. These are the fundamental truths I keep coming back to when I have my spiritual experiences with LSD. It is comforting and profound. I can see it everywhere I look. It gives me hope that every ending inevitably leads to a new beginning on both a micro and macro scale.
The idea of the fluctuation of selfishness throughout life seems to fall into that framework as well. When we are born, we are totally dependent on others. Although no longer in the womb, we are still very much an extension of our mother, feeding from her very body to survive. Then we slowly but surely begin to gain independence. We revel in this newfound freedom, we test it’s limits, we find our individuality, just like the wave on the ocean. For awhile we are lost in the intoxication of this illusion. The illusion that we are separate.
No matter what, if any, religion or spirituality you subscribe to, getting older tends to remind us that we are all one, with our fellow humans, other species, the earth, everything. We all depend on one another, we all live through and because of one another. We’ve all sprouted from the same source, just as we will all return to it someday. Like waves in the ocean. But just like the ocean, the tide is relentless. There is no ending to the ebb and flow, there is a constant undulating cycle. It is a beautiful thing to be reminded of this. For me especially, it is nice to be reminded of the way things change, the way I change without even realizing it. What may seem terrifying and impossible to accept one day, seems as easy as breathing when the time finally arrives. We don’t need to worry about how we will handle situations in the distant future, because this current version of ourselves won’t be the one dealing with it anyway. We’ve simply got to keep going and trust that when we get there we will be the person we need to be to get through it.
So there is nothing to fear. Not even death. Because no matter how many cycles come to an end, a new one starts simultaneously, spiraling out into infinity. For a time it may be important for us to be selfish, to learn how to best take care of this newfound self. But there is also beauty and comfort in playing with the very idea of “self.” What made me decide to draw the line where I have? Why is this body the only thing I consider me? Maybe I am actually more than this. That boundary seems to be expanding, little by little, every day. And one day this little brief wave that I am will have fully submerged once again.