It seems that each day I find something, or see something that astonishes me. It is a kind of gentle smack in the face. A recurring “ah ha” moment. That something is life. All kinds of life. I have an arrangement with ants in my home. I see birds outside, some small and colorful, some that defy physics by being able to hover and dart, some large and graceful that soar high above, gliding on a cushion of air.
I also look at various animals. Most frequent is the house cat. There are times it appears to be thinking, and others judging, and others in a zen-like void of peace, and then what it is truly best at, sleeping in a manner that makes you go a bit soft looking at it.
Rabbits frequent the bushes and grasses outside our back door. I am astonished that they survive in the company of hawks and coyotes. But they do. And large turkeys too.
And then there are people. Now this is not something that has come upon me because of my being diagnosed with IPF. I have made these observations and had such ruminations for some time now.
I am astonished by life itself it would seem. And that should not be too surprising in that all it takes is a few moments to ask yourself something like “what is life” or “how is it that creatures and plants sustain themselves”? Really, I wonder often such now more than ever – and this is in part due to the IPF thing. Just look at the seemingly infinite levels of complexity of living things from those parts of a creature we can see and touch, all the way down to that which is invisible to the naked eye, and further still to the microcosmic sea on which we all ride upon.
A strange fetish of mine, which is mostly involuntary, is to look at a person, and look at their physical image, and then see that person without their skin. Skinless, moving about, doing whatever, unaware that she or he even has skin, being caught up in the moment. When I have this vision in mind I then wonder a number of things all at once: What are we? Skin and bone? No, much more I know. Why then are we so pathologically obsessed with our outer appearance? It seems that but for minor differences in height, weight, and skin color, we are all just versions of the same thing. Enhancing this image of skinless people all around me are memories of anatomical pictures from science books when very young, and more recently the “Our Body: The Universe Within” show that has traveled the world, and that is just as I was envisioning those people I mentioned before. But instead of skinless corpses in various poses I see real life people this way. This is what I see when looking at, perhaps, you even.
How then are we so eager to judge, even to maim or kill, others because of such superficial differences that amount to little more than might a coat of paint on a house? I know that in terms of the social sciences this seems an almost rhetorical question, as judging and killing others for what they look like is as common as the common cold. Indeed, the analysis of human behavior as individuals, and groups both large and small, is so popular a practice as to have names for the process, such as psychology, sociology, social psychology, psychiatry, even, or especially, political science, eugenics, and so on and so forth. How much of our behavior as individuals or as groups, is determined by our innate physical makeup versus environmental influences, and the endless combinations they thereof can be overwhelming.
Forgetting all of that for the moment, back to birds and rabbits and coyotes. Without thinking, only looking at such living creatures, creatures of all sorts, from the elephants to planaria, puts me in awe, albeit if for only a brief moment or two. It is a kind of supernatural moment. It is one in which I am not asking for an explanation. It is not spiritual in some religious sense, but more of a sense of not only wonderment but of feeling connected. Such an experience is brief, but the ensuing pondering and thinking and even puzzlement it causes can go on for some time.
But due to events of the past four decades or so, I now feel like I am looking upon the last of these creatures, doomed to destruction by bulldozers, oil pipelines, toxic waste in our waters, radiation from power plant accidents and seemingly weekly oil spills. Even the entire earth, Gaya, quakes from fracking and becomes further sterile from surface mining, nuclear weapon’s testing, and other means of exploitation and plundering by humans.
It is an odd feeling. It is not as much sadness, as one of loss.