Warning, this post contains some religious/spiritual matter. If such things offend you, do not read on!
I’m not a religious person, but I believe in a lot of things. My theories on life’s meaning tend to originate from a lot of different places and also from my own personal experiences as farmer and a woman well-versed in hardship (another story for another time). I’ve been keenly aware that we’re all flanked by darkness and by light for as long as I can remember. You’ll find me suspended in that area with some leanings toward darkness, as I suspect most of us are. I feel there is so much wisdom that can be gleaned in that middle place, provided if you are willing to live there in acceptance and observance for a while.
Nature is where darkness and light live in balance perfectly. I’ve always loved unbridled nature, especially as a child. I can recall spending time filing through Audubon books identifying critters of all shapes and origins, hiding out in the hollowed out arbor vitae in the front yard hoping to spot a few of them. I’d imagine foraging and hunting my own food, exploring, living off of the land and my wits. I watched PBS Nature documentaries religiously. I romanticized experiencing real solitude, but not loneliness, because out in the wild I was part of something far reaching and grand. It still blows my mind that even then, as a child of 6 or 7, I knew what shape I wanted my life to take as an adult. I instinctively knew the place to go to to feel whole again, when the world in all of it’s chaos would succeed at tearing away pieces of my heart. It’s tender, green leaves and the musky fur of animals that make up the most healing salve of the spirit. I’ve built my life as such that I would have access to these things daily. I need them to feel complete.
I spend a lot of time thinking about my relation to the world. Perhaps too much. Why do we suffer? And to what end? I live on a farm with a retreat that people come to to contemplate the purpose of their own lives, so it makes sense that it would come up from time to time. I’m not sure what it is the students learn during their practice. I am outside working, engaging in a practice of my own. I don’t feel that I’d benefit much from the experience of sitting in thoughtful silence in a room full of other people, though I certainly can see how others might derive insight from it. It’s just not for me, at least not yet.
I believe that I’ve found “God” in my own way. I’m in cahoots with it every day. It’s name has already been chosen several times over by people much wiser who walked this Earth long before me. In my mind, it has it’s own name. “The Great Everything.” The great everything is just that. All things, and a sequence of transformations that keep life moving along in whatever unexpected pattern it choses. Because of the great everything, there is no true death or true birth. Nothing exists independently.
Participating in simple, outdoor work or play will give you a chance to observe a distilled version of what I mean. For example, in the garden, the soil is alive. Or it should be, full of bacteria and yeasts and insects and old, old minerals made of elements born from our universe(!!!). A seed is planted, rain falls from the sky, gathering nutrients from the atmosphere on it’s descent. The soil is moistened and the seed begins to germinate. Fungi grow with the seed’s roots so that both can grow with more vigor. Over time, the plant may reach maturity, feeding people or animals in the process. It, or some of it’s neighboring sisters living off of the same biological network, will make seeds, dropping them into the soil to complete the cycle. The plant withers and dies, becoming food for the soil and the next generation of plant. This is the work of The Great Everything on a small scale. It all works just like this, and has since the beginning. There is no death, only transformation. What we’re made of has always been here, and always will be. Is it possible that matter and spirit are somehow entwined in a way that we have yet to comprehend? It’s this sort of thing that makes me think that science and religion could one day be one and the same. Anyone out there nerdy about cosmology or particle physics?
I know posts like this make me sound a little nutty. It’s ok. I accept that part of myself and welcome it at times. I feel very entangled with the life around me and I’m compelled to share my thoughts. My perspective is less based on the concept of spirit exclusively and more on actual matter and shared intention. I understand now that my purpose (and perhaps all purpose?) in life is to be an axis for external influences. Like a big net, all linked together. I think the concept of “self” is misguided, which I realize is a very Buddhist take on it all. Not one single part of who I am would exist if not for the influence of another living thing. The same can be said for everything around me. From the food we eat and the land we live on to the air we breathe and the people we love and just pass by on the street, the grass growing out of the sidewalk. Heck, even the sidewalk itself. Everything exists because it was touched by something. We’re each part of a mutual existence, from 10,000 years ago to 10,000 years in the future. It’s a tie that truly binds. In this, I find real meaning and comfort.
So, I suppose as humans, it would be nice to think that we are all here as observers and participants in these cycles that have occurred over and over, forever. We have the capacity to recognize them, and regulate our role in them so that we don’t throw the whole thing off kilter. But somewhere along the line we started seeing ourselves as existing separate from it all. And we started seeing life has a thing we must harness and master and profit from. Death became the enemy and we all began to flail toward the light while sinking further into the darkness. It’s like quicksand. The more you struggle in it, the faster it takes you.
We are struggling toward something that should be quite effortless. Accepting that we all have limited time and that our lives don’t truly belong to us is one step in the right direction. We must make a conscious effort to live well, love the things around us (ALL things), leave the space that we occupied while we lived better than it was when we arrived. We should meet others where they are and try to understand their perceived differences. Put the effort into growing relationships that become fruitful in a way that benefits as many people as possible. And when you lose sight of your purpose, get outside and breathe the air and feel the sun on your face. It helps.
When the day comes when I move on from this life, I don’t want to leave any detritus behind for someone else to clean up. I feel like that’s a fair rule to live by, if you are the sort of person that appreciates that sort of thing. I certainly am!
Have a great day, everyone!