The cherry blossoms have been unfurled for over two weeks now, and they are beginning to flutter down like snowflakes illuminated by sunlight with each gusty wind. Two Robin males scuffled in an oak, quivering the leaves and then dropping as a roiling mass to the ground, sweeping out clouds of dust with furious wingbeats till one bird shot into flight and away, and a satisfied female Robin glided from her viewing perch to join her victorious mate. The hummingbird chicks have already fledged. Crickets and frogs sing after dusk and well into the night; and showers fall gently like velvet curtains that soon lift, unveiling a crisp brilliant world. The days are longer, the sun is warmer, the air soft and perfumed; it is spring.
Despite the crises of humanity, and despite our own urgencies and preoccupations, Nature cycles majestically on, renewing itself at every moment and in every gesture, oblivious to our preferences. The streams swollen with spring meltwater or the runoff of spring showers carry the weathered chaff of mountains down to the sea, slowly feeding the creation of future rocks from the destruction of older ones. The warming earth slowly exhales organic vapors once trapped in frozen ground or as living plant matter, even as new shoots and blossoms emerge. Nature is an entwinement of cycles in continuous change, a completely dynamic reality that has no static state nor time of pause, however calm it may momentarily seem to us. “You cannot step twice into the same river,” said Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BC), and so it is with the continuous flow of reality. The only constancies in Nature are the processes that cycle matter, energy, and life through the evolving sequence of forms manifested as the universe we perceive.
Every now and then it is good for us to break the spell of our everyday preoccupations, the “ten thousand and one things” that distract us from seeing fundamental reality, the “Māyā” as it is called in Sanskrit, and simply feel our connection to the authenticity behind all our abstractions. Despite our ephemeral externalities, like our financial situation, the amount of marriage counseling we’ve been assessed as needing, the love or indifference of our children, our degree or lack of employment, “whatever” (the epithet for understanding, these days), we embody Nature and thus the only eternity that has actual meaning. “Man is something Nature is doing,” Alan Watts (1915-1973) said in one of his lectures, and remembering that can help you to renew your outlook and produce your own attitudinal spring to counter the psychological gravity of our very imperfect and probably terminal global civilization.
Our externalities will soon enough fade away, and even our bodies will fall apart, ultimately exhaling our consciousness back into the churning void that continuously erupts matter, energy, and life as the Nature we are immersed in and express while visibly alive. During our time as flashes of life we can make our radiance sparkle instead of fading as a monotonous glow, by renewing our minds in ways that are simple and have long been obvious. In our obsessively acquisitive and unfairly competitive political economies, we can find someone to love by being faithful and caring, we can find trusting friends by being trustworthy, we can see some improvement in social conditions by resisting participation in schemes and occupations that are parasitic, mean-spirited, and dehumanizing. We can come upon beauty to enjoy by devoting time to the crafting of thoughtful and beautiful things and motions. We can be courteous, honest, and honorable despite their competitive disadvantages.
It is impossible to live without moral compromise in our civilization since so much of gainful employment involves exploitation of people and Nature, so we must forgive ourselves of our own sins and refuse judgments and guilt cast by others, but we must also make it a matter of personal honor to see that our actions propagate as little harm as we can manage. Attitude is character, and as Novalis said in his paraphrase of Heraclitus, “character is fate.” We experience a life that reflects the attitudes we express.
This ramble is not to be taken as a sermon cataloging a list of do’s and don’ts, but as an invitation to let the conscious part of you have a renewing spring regularly, just as the unconscious part, along with all of Nature, renew themselves on so many timescales with so many cycles: the beating of your heart, daily with the cock crowing, monthly with the Moon’s cool light, yearly with Spring’s resurrection of life; or at any sudden moment when you choose to empty the mind, dispel the Māyā, and actually experience life by sensing your breath.
8 April 2012
Poo-Tee-Weet (Happy Easter)
9 April 2012