Talk of impending cataclysmic climate change, and of the more immediate end of civilization as we know it, has given us all the jitters – yes, indeed, we are living in a very difficult time. A new study, sponsored in part by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, has recently outlined the probability of a total global collapse of society within just a few decades, due to unsustainable resource exploitation and an increasingly unequal distribution of wealth. But there is hope – there is always hope – that such announcements will awaken us from our long and troubled sleep.
Earlier this year, a team of astronomers announced that they had found gravitational waves that were created moments after our own dear Big Bang. Measuring them has provided evidence that the universe as we know it is indeed expanding, and it’s not slowing down as was once thought – it’s speeding up. We cannot see beyond the edge of the universe, which is rushing away from us in all directions increasingly faster than the speed of light and therefore far beyond the capacity of human perception, yet no longer (it would seem) beyond our capacity to comprehend.
Furthermore, we are beginning to recognize that there is no single universe that simply rotates upon our own perceptions but rather, what Buddhists had understood long ago, there is an infinite number of universes, each one originating in its own fiat lux, emerging from a white hole that itself is the result of a black hole farther back in some other parallel universe – and all within one great infinite, eternal multiverse. The possibilities before us are endless because, as theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku puts it, Genesis is taking place continually in an ocean of Nirvana.
But to begin to know this we must remember how we got here – and what we are doing with what we’ve brought along with us, and with what sort of consciousness. As the stream continually flows from its source towards the open sea, its health depends upon remembering the vigor of its spring, even as the current continually glides and falls toward its eventual destination. We are this stream.
Remembering is the opposite of dismembering – it puts us back together. As we awaken each day to the entirely new possibilities that each new day presents, we must become fully present to ourselves and to those possibilities, remembering who we are before the accumulation of our resentments and regrets, and without the burdens of our opinions and attitudes.
A few years back, I was in the leisurely habit of walking at daybreak through the vineyards near my home – taking along my camera, a few scraps of paper, and my favorite pen. I went to witness the ways each day began, and to record them with photographs, and a brief poem. Here is one:
Whether I have faith
or do not, I know I am
still carried forward.
Now I simply remain still as I awaken, gradually remembering who and where I am – not just my name and the room I am in, but that I am the one that is bathed in the slant of light spilling in through the window. This is before my mind becomes disturbed by an opinion about these things, when these things are neither good nor bad but simply true. The day is then still a blank sheet of paper upon which anything can be written, in any language, and nothing has yet happened, so anything can happen.
It is true that there are certain limitations to what can take place, given who I am – my skills and my disabilities, and the biases to which I still cling without realizing it. And yet, the possibilities themselves remain infinite, despite the boundaries of my own creation. And so I choose to be simply curious, exploring rather than searching, and preparing myself to be surprised by whatever is discovered. All too quickly the images that occur to the observing mind are given smaller meanings by the judging mind. And yet, greater meanings can rise from a place deeper within ourselves than the pleasures and anxieties of the moment.
If we can remember to see things as they are without the distortions of attitude or opinion, we will make the best start to living this life fully and well. For while the world we know is always coming to an end, every morning is still another beginning.
Jim Shere is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Glen Ellen. He is also a writer and poet, and executive director of the Glen Ellen Historical Society. You are invited to explore his website at jimshere.com.