I ran before five yesterday morning in a driving wind and rain. The only person I met was a very large skunk, which was crossing the road in front of me when it stopped briefly at the sound of my footsteps, then scurried on. It ran along the edge of the opposite sidewalk for a distance of about a hundred feet before taking cover in some bushes.
The rain was coming in waves. It wasn’t cold at all; the temperature was somewhere near fifty degrees. I was soaked to the skin. My hair, sandals, and feet were drenched. It was so pleasant that instead of turning on the street that led back to the house, I extended the course and ran another time around. I kept a leisurely pace throughout. The rain stopped about the time I did. To the southwest, I could see a large patch of clear sky. Come to think of it, it wasn’t raining before I started, either. I almost missed out!
Authority. It’s funny how, at the very sight or sound of the word, so many of us are immediately suspicious and on guard. And yet we follow or subscribe to all sorts of authorities: religious, philosophical, cultural, societal, motivational, parental, literary, poetic — you name it. And in doing so, we live our lives second-hand, a step removed, as it were, our opinions, outlooks, actions, and ideas rooted in assumption rather than directly examined experience. Anger, war, poverty, hatred — all spring from blindly accepted authority and assumption. We’ve heard it said that most of us find this easier than thinking for ourselves. But is it? There is nothing easy about unhappiness and strife, nothing easy about refugee camps and famine, nothing easy about the divisiveness so widespread in the world. It’s easier to stop and ask why we accept and believe the things we do, why we protest, why we carry guns and storm capitals, why we think one political party is better than another when they are only serving themselves. It can be frightening and unsettling at first, and embarrassing too, to realize that shouting slogans and waving flags is sheep-like behavior. It can be even more so when, alone and in a quiet hour, one asks, What do I think? Why do I think it? What if there is no god, no heaven, no this, or no that? What really happens to us when we consume factory-slaughtered animals, and rub our skin with soap made from boiled fat laced with perfume? What does it do to our collective consciousness? What does it do to the earth? There’s nothing easy about destroying the Amazon, nothing easy about deploying and maintaining armies around the globe, nothing easy about running out of clean water or breathing foul air. As I said in a letter to a friend a few days ago, we need to be present in our own lives, and not live them according to the desires, fears, and precepts of others. Anything less is a missed opportunity. Of course, some of us are acorns, and some of us are oaks. But one is not inferior to the other. The oak was once an acorn. The acorn is a potential oak. And it is a vital function of the oak to help to create the conditions needed for acorns to flourish and grow. Which am I? Which are you? It doesn’t matter. We may never know. We need each other. That, too, is beautiful.
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Categories: Sweet Sleep and Bare Feet
Tags: Acorns, Actions, Anger, Assumptions, Attention, Authority, Awareness, Bare Feet, Be Here Now, Cruelty, Culture, Environment, Flags, Friends, Guns, Hate, Letters, Love, Oaks, Opinions, Philosophy, Politics, Poverty, Rain, Religion, Running, Sandals, Society, Violence, War, Water, Wind