We quite often forget that life is extraordinary.
Unbelievable. Strange. Unknown. Unique. Infinite. There is often a sense amongst many of my peers that the discovery of life, or finding what it means to really be alive, is something to be delayed. Moments that stir you from within, experiences and places of presence, and instagram-worthy mountain peaks all form part of a vague vision of the future. Adventure, change, and inspiration…really living …will be pursued after certain career paths have been endured, money made, professional and personal identity secured. We relegate travel and fear and self-reflection to a wavering place in time we call “someday”. Perplexity: an entangled state. I think that to stand and consider existence, to contemplate life at all really, is to conceptualize and enter into an entangled state. Or really, it is to recognize that we are an entangled state. And that life is happening every day, every second, with every minute turn of the Earth. Life is not the future, and it is not the past. Life is the convoluted and ever-shifting present. If I really consider what it means to be alive, a thoughtful, moving, breathing condition of stardust, walking on a planet hurtling through comet debris and solar winds, taking space in a universe of incomprehensible size, breathing in and giving out, becoming my surroundings, being my surroundings, my surroundings being me…if I realize that life means changing, without meaning or realization, or with extraordinary purpose and desire, or with everything in between, it all leads me on a path to a particular truth. The truth that we live in a place and time without straight lines. That life is not a straight line. It is a convoluted ball of string, and the only thing set is the beginning and the end. I have found that through silence and love and quiet moments sitting in the sunshine that suddenly everything feels connected. Trained as a scientist, I have learned about molecular building blocks and elements and theories about the universe and its formation. However, it is different entirely to actually internalize what it means to all come from some sort of singular source. It is a shattering experience to realize we are all and everything a product of some strange origin of life, and even earlier than that, from universe expansion and explosions and fire and nuclear fusion that have brought me, billions of years later, to this singular moment in time and space and consciousness, typing thoughts onto a page. What has drawn me to environmentalism, and particularly to food and the environment, is realizing that I care about everything in the world because it is all so interconnected and interdependent. We are interdependent. It is all one: arrangements of electrons and protons and neutrons in constant movement. The very atoms that make up every part of me came from something that I once ate, or that my mother did. They are what I breathed in. They make up the millions of bacteria that compose more of my body than I sometimes would like to think. The millions of bacteria that I depend on. What I am and what my family is, and what my children to come will be, is a reflection of the environment. A reflection of each other, and of me. If we believe that matter can neither be created nor destroyed, what we are now has been and will continue to be. However, we do have the power to transform energy and matter, to take what we are given and to do something with it. With this power comes a great deal of responsibility, and one that I question that humanity as a whole has wielded well. We change the world every day. How we do so must become part of our conscious thought. Life demands to be considered. To be considered not in passing, not for the flicker of time that it takes to read this sentence, but for a substantial moment. It demands to take up space. I find that I have to focus to keep the mind still. It is difficult to remain pinpointed on a singular strand of thought, to perform a deliberate examination of the life around me, the life within me, the way that I am not really a separate entity, but the sum of the world and the sum of history and the passage of time and evolution and chance. It is so important to stop for more than just the familiar pause you feel when something that you read in a book strikes you. To resist the temptation to move on with the day. To take a few more breaths. In a world of a thousand stresses, routines, upcoming events, people, places, unending books and pens and paper and clutter, it is so easy to lose grasp of time. To feel that the world is moving too fast. We must all discover what it means to be somewhere. To be some thing. To be living in a moment of time that will never come again. To be something that will never come again. Some places may make this easier than others. Carlos Castaneda was I think the first to coin the phrase “power places”. It was something that my father wrote to me about in a letter, and something that I’ve been thinking about a lot. There are many studies analyzing differing electrical currents and magnetic fields within the Earth and along its surface. A multitude of religions and spiritual traditions and stories discuss the existence of places with certain energies, places where energy converges or diverges, places capable of clearing the mind, rejuvenating the body, places capable of healing. I think that most people are already aware of this though, at least subconsciously. There are spaces that demand that you sit for a while. To turn your face to the sun, even in the rain. To take off your shoes and think about the way the dirt feels your feet. How strange that feels, how awakened you suddenly are. How connected you are. You can close your eyes and feel your feet are locking you into the ground, into the world, a sphere spinning over itself, rotating around the fiery ball that woke you up that morning with light filtering through your bedroom window. And it’s not scary at all. It’s enlightening and exciting and empowering. These are power places. And they are everywhere. We have only to discover them. Or to close our eyes and create them. You don’t have to travel to the high Sierras to feel alive. You don’t have climb the corporate ladder to pay for two week vacations filled with turquoise water and fresh mango slices. Sometimes you have only to take a moment to step outside. Take your shoes off. Let down your hair. Close your eyes. Take a breath.
Then take two breaths.
Realize that someday you will die. And then realize that today you are alive.