The plaintive cry of a Red-shouldered Hawk echos through this small valley. Down below, the cattle low, while beside me the whirring of hummingbird wings kiss my ears as she sips from the Salvia in the garden. These primal sounds set the perfect tone for this month’s Reflection. They awaken the senses and remind me of times gone past when human beings moved to the rhythms of nature’s song.
Each day, even as we live our lives in the here and now, hovering at the edges of our minds is all that has gone before. Rarely do we stop to consider the patterns of past and present mingling. Oh, we often get stuck in some specific aspect of the past; a perceived wrong, a tragedy, a failure.
But like the light of the moon that merely reflects the sun’s light but does not offer the essential, life-giving heat, our thoughts of what has gone before usually fall away, prey to the distractions of life in the Age of Information.
This was not always so. To ancient peoples, the stories of the old ones were brought alive in communion and ritual. The young were brought up to know the tradition of wisdom acquired by those who came before.
Not that I am advocating a return to some idealistic past. Personally, I’d rather not have to live without modernity’s blessings (like antibiotics and indoor plumbing!).
There remain places in the world today where the stories are still told. Places where families all still know and care for each other, passing down the wisdom of the Mothers and Fathers of long ago. These small pockets are rapidly shrinking and will, in the not too distant future, disappear. They will go the way that the Pandas and the Sea Turtles are now going – fading into the twilight of the past.
We are like billions of individual stars, drifting in time and space with no galactic center to hold us together. Science posits that there are black holes at the center of galaxies. Black holes with gravity so strong that the rules of physics morph and change. Without a strong center, there is nothing to hold us together.
And yet, and yet, perhaps if we could reach out to each other and reflect on our commonalties, we would not hold so tightly to our small selves. Those gossamer strands of what is the same might build bridges between us; bridges of love and compassion and trust.
We all need food, water and air to stay alive. We all love our children, we all share this small planet on the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy as our home. Even if there is abundant life elsewhere in the universe, time and space create insurmountable obstacles for us to interact with them.
If you go outside and look up at the stars, the light that reaches your eyes was created millions of years ago. You are looking into the past. That light traveled through many miles and years to reach you. That star may have already lived its life and died before its light hits your eyes.
To reflect on these things can trouble us; can cause us to feel small and insignificant compared to the grand scope of existence. There is, however, another perspective to gain. Here we are, on this precious jewel of a planet. We are aware and awake to ourselves and the life here. Why would we destroy our beautiful earth? How could we do anything but cherish her and treat her as our sacred home?
Somehow this perspective is lost as we run from ourselves and what is right in front of us. We have eyes that do not see. Instead, we argue and fight and kill over who’s got the truth, and who gets the biggest piece of the pie that is the earth.
There are some days when I can become almost nihilistic about the course humanity is taking. But most days, as I reflect on the past, I am filled with awe and admiration at how far we have come. Each generation must confront its own particular version of this story, with or without the wisdom of those who have gone before. Yet there is always that powerful seed that resides in the hearts and minds of human beings that ever seeks greater justice, more compassion and bigger truths.
One of the most powerful things we can do for each other is to reflect the beauty we see in each other back to each other. To be like the moon, reflecting the light of the sun throughout the dark night, reminding us the sun is still there in the heavens, and that the morning will arise to greet us with its light and warmth.