I’m a little bit late to the Animist Blog Carnival, but better late than never, yes?
This month’s theme is Time. I have a strange relationship with time. One of the things that brings me such wonder is the sheer vastness of the Universe we live in, to include its fourth dimension. I suppose it’s in part because, as I’ve grown older, it’s taken larger amounts of time to impress me. When I was young, the idea that I was seven whole years old was a Big Deal! I couldn’t even conceive of my parents being in their thirties; it was just a bigger number with no context. In my late teens and twenties, as I started contemplating my mortality, the average lifespan of seventy-two years was a bit of an obsession. “Wow, I’m a quarter of the way to there!” was a sobering thought at eighteen. But I made peace with that, and the possibility that I might end up not even seeing seventy-two, and so I had to move on to other numbers to be bewildered by.
Which that brings me to now, in my mid-thirties. I am a huge fan of history documentaries. Ancient petroglyphs here in the United States, stone circles in England that are thousands of years old, the march of humanity out of (and back into, and sometimes out again) Africa and across the globe–these things entangle my mind and make me wish for a time machine so that I could observe more closely these people who were just as alive and real then as I am now. And extending beyond that, the evolution of species of animals, fungi, plants, and more over millions upon millions of years. And then the planet itself, how I wish I had a piece of the oldest rocks known on the Earth, thinking of how Earth’s sister planet Theia might crashed into it so long ago and two became one, how once all of this was star-stuff and cosmic dust and before that one very big bang. To these, seventy-two years doesn’t even register.
They say that one of the purposes of spirituality is to inspire awe and wonder and reverence, connection to something greater than yourself. This bigger-picture approach to time is one of the things that’s helped me to move toward a more naturalistic spirituality, one very embedded in the physical world and the wonders thereof. The lines between spirits, and what those spirits are supposed to represent, have become much more blurred, and I feel as much reverence and joy in observing a scrub jay on the power line outside my home as I do for the totem Scrub Jay. It’s made being in this world a much more joyful place, and more than ever I strongly disagree with those who claim there is no magic in this world.
Additionally, this cosmic dance has given me peace over the fact that I have just a tiny blip in the grand scheme of things. The very fact that I was honored with a place in this dance, even for a brief time, is in and of itself a privilege and a blessing. I will continually be frustrated that I can neither peer backward into what came before me, nor will I be able to see how the story continues to unfold once I am gone. I may not even leave a mark that lasts much beyond my passing. But in the end it is enough that I was here, that a little piece of time unfolded just for me, as it has for all of us–pill bugs, Cooksonia, stromatolites, the continental shield of North America, and every single human being that has ever and will ever breathe the air.
The small things count, too. Every moment that I live and breathe and exist is important. I blink, I exhale, I turn my head. A word is spoken, a thought flickers and is brought into the open, a goal is completed. Each is stitched to the next by the passing of time, but not one can be taken away without the whole thing collapsing. Every moment is important both in and of itself, and as part of the overall continuation.
So even the worst moments in my life have meaning. They may not have happened for some extraordinary cosmic reason; I don’t need to make sense of them in the manner of “Well, you’re working off bad karma” or “it was meant to be”. But I don’t have to add extra meaning to these just to justify their existence. The fact that each moment exists is justification enough. Each one is a stepping stone from one to the next, and I couldn’t have just jumped from the best thing that happened to me last week to the great event I’ll get to experience in a few days. That’s why I can realize, even at my darkest moments when my anxiety has me convinced the worst is here and everything is horrible, that it’s just a temporary condition. I may not be very good at being in the moment and being okay with that when life falls apart, but I’m getting better at remembering that the bad moments are stitched to the good ones and sometimes I just need to be patient and let time continue to unfold apace. Eventually I come to a place of respite and safety again.
I’m not at all alone in this experience. I have moments that are knitted into years and an ever-expanding network of lifetimes, mine and others’, and we in turn are woven into the very latest threads of a much greater cloth, billions of years old and countless strands large. Time weaves no holes, only ever-expanding patterns. It doesn’t even matter whether there’s a conscious weaver behind it all or not. Just being here in time’s continual unfolding–that’ll evoke more than enough wonder, awe, and reverence for the remainder of my lifetime, I think.