Life, Death and Caca

"Everything is a miracle. It is a miracle that one does not dissolve in one's bath like a lump of sugar." - Pablo Picasso
Yesterday I was driving on this seemingly interminable stretch of I-10 between Phoenix and LA while listening to a song called “One Of The Billions” by my friend John Elliot. John has this uncharacteristic knack for mixing obscure dialogue with music, and this song starts and ends with this anonymous guy waxing poetic about the nature of life and learning. Let me share a quote that stood out: “When you come to the end of the education’s just...caca. You can kick it out the door, because it’s’s just...dried caca.” At the end of the song there’s this poignant mix of waning music underpinned by this same (incredibly stoned) guy talking about how we all started as cockroaches. It sounds crazy, but it’s actually very beautiful and it started to make me feel like I was in the middle of some bizarre, lovely, vast, unfathomable experiment called Life On Earth.

I didn’t always have this sense of wonder and connectedness - I was raised Catholic, and that experience implanted in me a lingering sense of fear, doubt, guilt and trepidation, of walking on eggshells around an angry father with a quick temper. It also imbued me with the not-so-subtle sense that this earth is some sort of moral proving ground, with eternal damnation as our motivation to be kinder, gentler souls.  I know that's not a new or original idea and that there are plenty of religions, both Eastern and Western, that characterize our time here as some sort of trial, or way-station, or a place to learn until we graduate to a more enlightened state. Whether it’s reincarnation or heaven, I think there’s this idea that we’re on our way to someplace better, that this Earth is not an end unto itself. What I’ve been thinking lately is - maybe it is, and that focusing our attention on some distant point might be obscuring a kind of heaven that is sitting right here in front us. And that it might also be inadvertently thumbing our nose at some of the creator’s best handiwork.

Today I was at the beach and there were these tide pools, and each one was like it's own tiny world - anemones, fish, tiny plants, barnacles, crabs scurrying around. And I was just amazed by it all, by the color and variety and sheer miracle of the existence of anything and everything.  The singing of the birds, the crashing of the waves, the wind, the color of the sky, the running of the tides. At this point you're probably thinking, "Wow, namoli, sounds like you got your hands on some great medical marijuana." Not the case, although I *was* offered a prescription on the boardwalk in Venice by a “doctor” wearing a bikini and a lab coat. But no, this is actually just one of my naturally occurring states, where I get completely absorbed in something - a lizard, a bird, a plant, where I feel like I can inhale the air and cherish it, where I can feel the sand between my toes or the grass under my feet and simply be glad to be alive on this spinning miracle of a planet. In that moment I think, what could heaven possibly be other than this? I see the sticky fingerprints of the creator all over this beautiful earth.

Let me qualify all of this by saying this is a rare but much-appreciated state of mind for me, and that I don’t walk around feeling in awe of things 24/7. I frequently get mad in traffic, I get frustrated, I get angry, I get jealous, I get impatient, I act out of selfishness, I feel sad and I worry more than is healthy. But despite that, my world is punctuated by these moments of lucidity and contentment, and sometimes I think that might be what enlightenment is - just opening your mind and heart further and further and growing your sense of wonder until every atom becomes some small miracle - because really, isn't it?

Or maybe it's just caca. 

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