Wonderous Life

Wonderous Life

 

Behold! The Magnolia, it is a universe unto itself. These goliaths come with fully formed ecosystems stock. For much of my adult life, I’ve had the pleasure of working outdoors. One of my greatest joys in this vocation is working in, around, and occasionally on top of magnolias. These plants are enormous. They strike me as majestic, dominating the landscape, providing shelter from the sweat and swelter of Georgia summers, and accommodating an insane variety of smaller lifeforms.

The fascinating thing to me about nature is the immense level of interconnection that occurs across every classification of life. This tree is a lush and verdant microcosm. Underneath the dense outstretched foliage resides numerous smaller shade-friendly plants, multiple diverse ground covers, polk salads, moss, mushrooms, vines, onto more complex life such as insects, snakes, squirrels, sparrows, and so many more. Each its own island, its own dimension, infinite in their individual complexity.

This symbiosis between so many creatures never ceases to inspire me. I step inside the branches of these beautiful behemoths to inhale the richly oxygenated air and exhale ecstatic satisfaction. Being in the presence of so much vigorous life simultaneously working with and against itself in a perfectly clockwork manner, transforming sunlight into matter, decaying the matter into the earth, renewing the soil to feed even smaller and equally important systems of life which again breed greater complexity in one gigantic seasonal rasp.

Or consider the carcass of a whale, sunk to the ocean floor. The death of a giant brings life to the minute multitudes. The larger scavenging sharks and eels search vast deserts of ocean floor to find the fallen mammalian oasis. They eliminate the majority of the meat, leaving the smaller bits for myriad invertebrates to consume. Afterward, bacteria arrive to eliminate the last bit of fat contained within the bones. All in all, this feasting can sustain an extremely diverse aquatic ecosystem for more than a century. Imagine that. A one-hundred year feast.

Astounding. My description doesn’t really do the phenomena justice, so I’ve included an excerpt from the Blue Planet documentary series. Check it out, and carefully absorb the astonishment.

It inspires awe as well as humility, which makes me realize that I too am a part of a greater whole, a simple cell in the tissue of my municipality, which in turn belongs to the organ of our province, in our national system, that belongs to a global body. It’s a mind boggling realization, finding out that your individual cell(f) is part of a collective body. The downside of this realization is that it’s accompanied with a more sobering epiphany: our body has cancer.

Bad karma, asura, negative energy, imbalance, darkness, despair, Sin. Like a tumor, if left unchecked, it will grow uncontrollably until it devours everything, leaving a destitute and withering husk of chaos in place of the once promising vessel. It goes by a lot of names, but the same character prevails throughout every culture in the world. Never has it been a good thing to be selfish, prideful, malevolent, ruthless, inhumane, overzealous, dirty, derogatory, or without compassion. Every great system of thought spends a good deal of syllables vilifying iniquity and espousing virtue.

The reason? There is a common thread that runs through the shared unconscious ideology of humanity, a unifying force in our psyche that roars in protest of injustice. It’s the notion of how things ought to be. We all know it exists. It is the unknown absolute. The mark we’re all missing. And while I may be the proverbial flower child, shaking my head at the violent insanity that my brothers and sisters perpetrate and perpetuate, I don’t lack understanding. Watching and admiring nature as I do, I understand that all life follows certain cycles. Everything has a place and a pattern. It seems almost inescapable in its entropy. We all fall apart and pick ourselves up again, with little hope for improvement.

Yet we do improve. Servants and sovereigns slowly slouch toward a lasting peace. And why? Because, deep in our hearts, past the place we place the pain, beyond the holes left by loneliness and regret, beneath the chasm created by the chaos of tragedy and abuse, down to our very core. That’s where we keep our capacity for forgiveness. And if we can forgive, then that means we recognize a standard. After all, if we can forgive, then there has to be fault, and if there is a fault, then that means there is a whole. A synthesis of what should and should not be, cavorting together in harmony. A jubilant and masterful perfection, prescribing an antidote to antipathy. A simple sinuous center that accepts love and kindness, and rejects hatred and negativity, while simultaneously recognizing their necessity to personal and cultural evolution.

A lot of people call it love. A lot of people call it God. And while the jury is out on the sentience or the science of the universe, I prefer to hope. I prefer to pray and appreciate, to wonder and bask at the creativity displayed in nature, and constantly imitated by man.

Whether or not you agree, I encourage you to take a moment the next time you stand next to a magnolia, look beyond its branches. Peer inside the alternate reality stored within, then step out, find the bloom that most catches your eye, study it carefully, and realize that it is just as grandiose as the heart of a dying star, and that it is essentially made of the same material.

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Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass
all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women
my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love,
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap’d stones, elder, mullein and
poke-weed.

– Walt Whitman