04.20.2011
Moving Right Along: Mr. Natural

Okay, so now we live in towns and cities and for most of us scenery is something we see on television. But we came out of the natural world, and it's got lessons for us. A lot of the time when we feel we're stuck in our lives, we're forgetting one or more of those lessons.

The improbable is always possible. Look at the platypus. The centipede. The seahorse. The fact that there are more species of orchid than any other plant on the planet. Nature thrives on the improbable. Do you sometimes look at your plans, your dreams, and say, “Never happen?” Well, put a sock in it. Your dreams may be improbable, but so are the potato bug and the three-toed sloth, and both of those are having an okay time. Do you seriously believe you can't realize a dream that's on a par with the three-toed sloth? Puh-leeeeez.

“Difficult” is a relative term. Long ago, earth contained one, and only one, continent, which we've retroactively named Pangaea. Naturally, since it was the one and only continent, it was surrounded by the earth's one and only ocean, which we could retroactively call the Really Big-Ass Ocean. And then what happened? Well Pangaea broke into all the current continents and major island groups and they floated away from each other like big paper boats until they gave us uses for words like “Europe” and “South America” and “Tahiti.” Does that sound easy? No. Did it happen anyway? Yes? How? Through the persistent application of effort over time. And even though time is a lot shorter for us than it is for rocks, most difficulties will yield to the persistent application of effort over time. And exercising effort persistently over time can also teach us that there's such a thing as good difficult. Writing a book, for example, is good difficult. It's possible to change course at any time. The fossil record is a chronicle of one life form after another plodding along for a while and then getting a better idea and learning how to skip or square-dance. Some of these new ideas, although they may have seemed modest at first, were game-changers. The backbone, for example. The backbone is such a good idea that it's hard to believe that there weren't any during most of the time life has been on earth. It seems like basic equipment, but in fact it was a late inspiration. The animals that embraced it learned to walk upright, some of them, and developed interesting brains. The ones that didn't remained sponges and arthropods.

What's the lesson? If what you're doing isn't working, change it. If change is life's fundamental mode of finding its way, you can to it, too. Change the way you do whatever you do. Find a new center, or keep the one you have now and do whatever it is more often and with greater seriousness. Or maybe more joy. And it doesn't matter that you can't see when you make the change where it will ultimately lead you. The backbone eventually led to the invention of running shoes, bifocals, and the croissant, and who could have predicted that?

Cataclysms are also beginnings. A star explodes, scattering light and radioactivity and gas through space. And iron and carbon and all the heavier elements, and those things become planets around new stars and maybe interesting life forms develop there. A whopping meteorite slams into the Caribbean and raises a cloud of dust that, over tens of thousands of years, kills off most of the species on earth – but also makes it possible for mammals to get a new start up the organizational ladder. Without exploding stars earth wouldn't be here. Without meteorites and mass extinctions, we wouldn't be here. Every now and then, our lives slam into a concrete wall, and everything goes flying, some of it beyond recovery. That's a GREAT time to start something new. Let's develop a stupid metaphor. Your entire life has been dedicated to a one-person art form, epic abstract poems in which you rhyme license plates. The DMV implants little chips in cars and does away with license plates. Guess what? You don't have to rhyme license plates any more. Look around. Surely there are thousands of things you'd like to do. Do one or two or three of them. You've been given a new beginning. Whoopee.

You deserve beauty. Look at the universe. Look at galaxies, moths, the human eye, any aspect of the water cycle, the shape of the hand, the fact that there are more species of orchid than any other kind of plant on the planet. Virtually everything natural is beautiful. Nature defaults to beauty. If you don't have beauty in your life, you're cheating yourself of something that's your fundamental right. If I believed in souls, I'd say you're endangering your soul. If you find yourself in this state of being, the first question is, “Am I seeing the beauty that surrounds me?” If you've tried and you don't see any, but you recognize it elsewhere or in other ways of living, then go where the beauty is and/or change the way you live.

If you want to see what happens when someone excludes beauty from his list of priorities, take a look at Donald Trump. Look at that mouth. This is a guy who only goes outside on a golf course.

'Nuff said.


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