Remembering and forgetting

What a miracle our consciousness is.

That an assemblage of matter, atoms and molecules, earth and stardust, coheres into cells – entities with processes and membranes and the capacity to produce themselves, and cells into organs…

… and that those cohere into a living, breathing, thinking being that can experience itself as alive, and think about itself, and take conscious deliberate action…

… that we can have other people and what happens matter to us…

… that we experience joy and love and grief and disappointment…

… that we can choose and speak, move ourselves and others to action, create and build and make and destroy, teach and play and invent and compose and undo ourselves…

… that we form relationships, communities, organisations…

… that we make worlds.

Maybe it’s only when we come into first-hand contact with death that we appreciate all at once what a miracle any of this is. And most of us do not come often into such contact directly. We are hardly in touch with the inevitability of our own end. Death is a rumour, a whisper, a great silence of which we are reminded only occasionally. It is, mostly, what happens to others.

I am coming to see that when I forget death I also forget how improbable any of this is. I forget that my body lives and that I live because of it.

It feels safer that way.

In my forgetfulness I am quickly distanced from the realness of things. I try fit in, to be liked, to avoid judgement, to stay within familiar horizons. I hold back. I retreat into the security of my own mind, where my suppositions and judgements of people can not so easily be tested. I become concerned with looking good. I get distracted, reaching repeatedly and automatically for what feels recognisable, for what will soothe me. But in order to shield myself from death something has to die and freeze and become very small within me.

I’m gradually finding out that the miracle of my own consciousness and the consciousness of others comes with a compelling responsibility to take care of life – to turn away from automatic pilot, and towards creativity, compassion, fierceness, love. Away from distraction and towards being present. Away from disconnection and towards listening deeply and speaking out. Away from denial and towards what’s true.

Towards life itself.

Because in my forgetfulness I also forget – and oh so quickly I forget – just how soon this miracle will be over for me, and for you, and for everyone we know.

Photo Credit: ►Milo► via Compfight cc

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