I found this picture of Finn and I among some old photographs in the bottom of a box. With a heartbreaking rush, this little soul has become, in his own right, a philosopher and artist, and an aspiring archeologist, and paleontologist; tall and lively and new. Time has no mercy in it's pace, and no end of gifts. Taking the chance just to hold what is here now, whoever is here now - beautiful and astonishing in their impermanence - is something I forget too easily to do. To get lost in that love, that understanding, that joy, however imperfect, because it will not last longer. In a moment, it will change, and become something else. How great a gift we are given.
I have been watching, as I always watch, the delicate dance of animal, flora, weather and human agency, here on our farm in Namibia. There is seldom a time when one or the other doesn't gain the upper hand, influencing all the others in a direction or tendency; they are never perfectly balanced. If they were, one would have to wonder whether the dance would be so captivating, or whether there would be any drama, any movement, any soul, any growth. The dancers must bend, straighten, must give and take, must consider, must plan, act on instinct, adapt. Sometimes it is a tragedy being acted out, draught, disease, overpopulation, starvation. Sometimes it is a glorious victory, a year of plenty, a great burgeoning of life, an overabundance, a burst of joyous thanksgiving.
What of us? Our part in all this, our influence, and our susceptibility to all of creation? Do we consider it? Sometimes, the hubris that leads us to think we are not connected to everything leads us toward not only unwise, but also evil choices. To fail to acknowledge our relation to all else and all others leads us into the a darkness, a madness that leaves devastation in its wake. We run, even from our relation to each other, which is often the most painful to recognize, but is also essential to our understanding of ourselves. I am related to that man I see, begging on the roadside. I am related to that child, who is working in horrifying conditions to produce the clothing I purchase so glibly. I am related to that dictator, who is responsible for the deaths of so many, and the misery of so many more. The people we hate, the people we love. I am related to you, whoever you are; my brother, my sister, my mother, my father, my child.
To act on our relatedness is perhaps one of the great challenges of mankind. In our daily actions, to remember that we are a part of something greater than ourselves, means to face our own discomfort with both the recognition and the anonymity it offers us. We may not say it is none of our business, that we can't do anything about it, that so wonderful a thing could not include us, or require of us, in our capacity, to live up to it. If we were not made for this, we were made for nothing, a series of nothings, a lifetime of meaningless ditherings. It is painful, humiliating, taxing, glorious, overwhelming, exhilarating, completely terrifying, and entirely fulfilling. To meet all with a nod of familial recognition, is to live in the purpose for which we have been made. To join in the rhythm, the dance.
*photograph of giraffes, courtesy of Jan Friede
I have been sitting in front of this computer on and off for days, trying to think of a way to start. It's a strange thing, isn't it, to start? A run of simple words, a jump, a shout, a whisper, a caress. How to start?
In the quiet of my own mind, and in the constant ebb and flow of days, the staccato rhythms of life with children, animals, cars, telephones, people; to choose a moment, and to expound and play its strings, seems easier than it is. Now. Now is the time.
So how do we start?
Courage is choosing a path without a map, not knowing if it's the right road. But it seems to be a road, at least, or maybe it's a way through the trees, up the mountain, through the water, toward the sun. Will it go as you have planned, will it lead you where you want to go? Probably not, at least not the way you expected it to, or maybe not even close. It will change you, it will hurt you, it will give you breadth and wonder, it will touch you with burning hands, drop you off the end of the known. But it won't be what you want, and if it is, what you want will most likely end up being nothing more than the vague edges of understanding; and you will meet the real landscape with skepticism, perhaps, or enthusiasm, but certainly with a sense of smallness. Seek the insignificance, or you will never know who you are. There is so much more. So, so much more. How to begin? Courage is moving your feet, starting is choosing, and safety is an illusion, and has to be let go. I'm tying my laces, packing a meal (or two) and looking toward the furthest point to choose my tack, my heart on the horizon.