“‘Is the good, true, and beautiful in my nature as strong as the whispers of the demons and the monsters?’ And we need to answer yes to that question everyday.”
-Angeles Arrien, anthropologist, Gathering Medicine: Stories, Songs, and Methods of Soul Retrieval
Earlier today I watched the trailer for Planet Earth II. Earlier today I walked out into my little city park, where a grasshopper stood in the road and a bird bickered at me from the trees, and the wind blew me forward on the way out, and backward on the way back; and throughout all that there was something deeper than a thought running through my mind. There was wonder. There was the thrum of all that is good, true, and beautiful in my nature, resounding to the touch of all that is good, true, and beautiful in the world around me.
It’s easy for me to get discouraged. There is so much that we do wrong. There is so much that I do wrong: so many ways I fall short, so many interactions in which I offer less than the fullest part of me, so many times when I veer off from living for the blank comfort of just passing time. I think it’s important to think about that. I think it’s important to ask the “What’s wrong with this?” questions. They’re our mechanic questions, pointing us toward what we need to fix. But why do we bother to fix our car?
I say it’s because a car lets us ride an explosion down the road. At first I was hesitant to use that metaphor, because there is so much wrong with cars: they pollute, they’re inefficient, and they lead to a lot of deaths. They’re also useful. They’ve saved lives. They’ve given the Planet Earth crew a ride out into the wild, and, with a rush of wind, they offer the joy of movement and the wonder of traveling. I think we should acknowledge our shortcomings, and the flaws in what we make. I think we need to celebrate ourselves, the steel and flame that we shape, and the shaping that the world does to us. I need that. I need, sometimes, to be a string on the instrument of the world, and to hear the music. I need to remember that, whatever else I do and try to do, I am always that.
We humans are destroying things. We are. But we are also building. We are also witnessing. We are also being witnessed. We are part of a world that is beautiful and varied, part of a cosmos vast beyond my imagining. The good, true, and beautiful in me thrills as part of the endless good, true, and beautiful all around me. Look at the grasshopper. Hear the birds. See the penguins and the great waves they swim through. For a moment, this moment, I celebrate the world as the playful, wonder-struck child that we can all sometimes be.
Even as a child I heard the demons whisper. I had my nightmares. And as a child I knew why I would struggle against them, survive them, learn from them, or move past them. It’s because–well, look outside. Look at those you love. Feel the touch of a stone. It’s because of all this.