There are periods in most of our lives when we seem to slip into cruise control, idling along in morbid wonder at our capacity for mediocrity and boredom. Yet, none of us as children dreamed dreams of a pedestrian life. The child we once were, was fired by aspirations and hopes far beyond being fair-to-middling. Drifting through life can have its comforts, but it sure doesn’t pump much zeal through our veins. And unfortunately, the clock keeps ticking, the hours and days going by. The past accelerates, the future narrows, possibilities diminish. The fire inside begins to burn lower, extinguishing at the disquietingly deceptive rate of one precious spark at a time. It’s a trap – a living coma.
Thankfully we can be unexpectedly jagged by some arrestingly beautiful natural vista so captivating it jolts us awake. Beauty can and does elevate something deep within our souls. Lifting us for a moment above the clinging molasses of the mundane, leaving us calmed and refreshed. Beauty reminds us we can be and want to be, much more than our base nature. Our sometimes startlingly powerful receptiveness to nature’s gorgeousness informs we own synchronicity with the natural and the beautiful; it vibrates an internal tuning fork. It might be a single tree, a bird, a stream, a mountain, or a valley that captures. At that moment, we are not calculating its usefulness, profit or utility but are transported by beauty for its own sake. If the mere existence of beauty percusses so deeply that it elevates our thoughts and calms our fears, what does the opposite do? What does the destruction and loss of beautiful things do to us?
Heretofore we believed it ok to exploit large mammals, capturing them from the wild and caging them. They suffered as they performed circus tricks, the better to entertain us. We now realize mammals like Elephants, Orcas, and humans, are all participants sharing in the same splendid mystery of life. We have recalibrated what we value and can no longer endure the idea of these beautiful, intelligent creatures suffering the lifelong trauma of captivity on our behalf. We gain more excellent value, beauty, and joy from freeing them than we ever did from exploiting them.
At this time of unpredictable climate extremes, we are reorienting ourselves in other ways also, wanting to treasure rather than exploit the natural world. Saving the beauty and biodiversity that remains and regenerating what we have exhausted provides more excellent value, beauty, and joy than continued unfettered exploitation will.
Many are seeking a life of quality over pursuing the entrenched ideal of quality-of-life, even as it costs the earth. We realize we have been too focused on turning our allotted hours into material and social gain. Blinded to the potency-of-worth, the restorative beauty supporting and surrounding us affords. The plundering of Earth’s treasure stores to enrich us is, it turns out, ultimately leaving us bereft. We are realizing that we have traded too much for limp pastimes and small pickings that will never satisfy or compensate.
The shift from wanting only the best for us and ours to calculating instead, what matters most, will most clearly illumine who we are, even to ourselves. Does the question change from how much is enough? – to – what is just too beautiful to lose? To choose what you love enough to save is not saying: this is better than that, it is saying this is more important.
Part of the whelming sorrow-scape shaping our reaction to the Australian fires is the degree of pain from the loss of that which is made precious through its fragile beauty. It hurts, and it hurts bad. Yet we cannot allow the vice-grip of horror at what we have wrought to freeze us into the fetal position. That is also a trap, another coma – just when the world needs you fully awakened to its loveliness and wonders.
This is an all-hands-on-deck moment if ever there was one. The child in you is sparking up again, outraged, but brimming over, as fresh young minds do, with expectation and possibility. The kid knows you will meet humanity’s most significant challenge with renewed zeal coursing through your veins, fired again by the aspirations and hopes that give life its gravitas. The kid knows, in the way kids do, you were born to palpitate with fullness of being and burn with fierceness of purpose during just such a time as this. The kid is confident the deeds you will do, and sacrifices you will make will weigh, against the backdrop of climate crises, as moral grandeur if that is what it is going to take. What do we tell that kid? And all the kids to follow?
As adults, we can choose to discover how much we can save if we wholeheartedly try – or- be forced to learn how much we can, or cannot, get along without.
As even kids know – a world is such a beautiful thing to waste.