Breathe deeply into your belly the endless blue sky expands as you exhale silky rays of sunlight whisper sweet nothings reassuring you that you are safe here the steady sound of sea against sand still resonates deep inside your chest You're going to be okay
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.
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.