On Being Alive

When the despair of the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s life may be, I go lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. ~ Wendell Berry 

A friend of mine sent me this quote and it struck me how I wanted to come into peace in the company of wild things. Perhaps you, too, are in a similar place, where you could leave this world of ours and go be where the great heron feeds.

It’s been a hard time, hasn’t it?

”Yet, in every nook and cranny, nature screams at the top of her lungs that nothing lasts, that it is all passing away. All that we see around us, including our own bodies, is shifting and evaporating and one day will be gone.” ~ Alan Lightman

And yet my thoughts, in these evaporating moments, are strangely in a different direction — not dwelling on endings, but beginnings.

I look upon my family, three grandchildren, and wonder how in the world did we even get into the game? It’s all so miraculous.

Just as nature screams, “You’re not going to live forever,” she screams with even more boldness, “Be thankful, very thankful, you got your one shot!”

Dr. Ali Binazir paints this scene: “Imagine there was one life preserver thrown somewhere in some ocean and there is exactly one turtle in all of these oceans, swimming underwater somewhere. The probability that you came about and exist today is the same as that turtle sticking its head out of the water — in the middle of that life preserver — on one try.” 

So before I grouse about being born into these trying times, I best remember how lucky I am to be here at all.

After all, what are the odds?

In Unweaving the Rainbow Richard Dawkins observed:

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people… In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I who are here. 

The irrefutable truth is we are, each of us, a stone cold miracle.

A one-in-400 trillion long-shot.

But that’s not half the miracle, for that exact same thing had to happen, in an unbroken chain, over thousands of generations. And this was not enough; none of this or anything would have mattered if the Creator hadn’t first called into existence this universe of ours.

Sometimes we just need to go lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds, to come into the peace of wild things and be reminded of the miracle of our own lives. Glory be to God.

Just a thought…


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