I’ve been having a strange sensation recently: I’m alive. It’s accompanied by: One moment I won’t be. Amazing.
What’s even more amazing is how many days there have been out of the total I’ve lived (21,065) when I didn’t have this sensation. I took life for granted. I didn’t envision my own non-existence.
Maybe it’s taking getting older and passing the 21,000 day mark to begin to appreciate the marvel of being able to appreciate anything.
I’ll be walking the dog, or standing in Tai Chi class, or getting out of bed in the morning, and suddenly I’ll be struck with a realization—not a thought, not an emotion, but a knowing—that there will come a time when it will be the last time I’ll do that thing. Or anything.
Maybe this sensation is the most genuine understanding of the mysteries of life that I’ll ever have. If so, I’m appreciative. Not that I understand anything about those mysteries; but at least I feel a deep sense of awe about the fact that I am able to not understand.
I could have been nothing at all. I could never have existed. And one day I will be just that: nothing at all and non-existent. Bodily, at least. Yet for now, this moment, I am. I am alive, I am conscious, I exist.
Which is far out. So far out, I can’t even begin to comprehend the billions-year-long series of astonishments that combined to bring me to be alive at this place and this time.
The big bang fourteen billion years ago. The formation of stars and their destruction as supernovae to form the heavy elements of which I’m made. The coagulation of Sol-orbiting particles into this Earth. The sparking into existence of primitive life. The evolution of that spark into a rich conflagration of species that have flamed up and burned out over many hundreds of millions of years, with one continuing trail of life culminating in the entity that is me.
It’s just too freaking unlikely to be true. Yet, it is. Here I am. As you are. Isn’t that amazing?
I wish I could say that this insight has made me a better person, that I live life more deeply now, that I cherish every moment. It hasn’t, and I don’t. Still, I feel that even though I’m no closer to grokking the mystery of the cosmos, the darkness is more apparent to me.
Blind and stumbling around, I marvel at the pain of sharp corners and the relief of soothing softness. I can’t see what’s really there, but at least I know that I can’t see. Enlightenment would be nice. Absent that, I’m happy with endarkenment
Beats the absence of either. Envoidenment.
That could well be where I’m heading after death. Who knows? None of us do, until after we die. And then there might be no knowing of anything, including death.
So I’m left with a feeling that I might call gratitude if I knew that there was an entity I could be grateful to. “God” is just three letters for me. An abstract idea, not a clear and present reality.
It isn’t so much gratitude, thankfulness, or appreciation as a simple Wow! To feel my fingers typing these words on my new laptop, to see my wife chopping vegetables in the kitchen, to hear our dog settling into her post dinner curled-up lassitude with a canine burp—it’s amazing.
From the big bang to this in 13.7 billion years of never-ending wow’s, almost all of which occurred outside the ken of sentient beings. And now here I am, a sentient being, alive, conscious, participating in all this. For a while, until I die and participate in something else.