Roots, Humility and Progress
I spent the better part of a Saturday afternoon whittling down a twig and filling up on mulberries straight from the tree. A hungry buck had taken his fill the night previous—as evidenced by a handful of tracks around the base and the entirely stripped lower branches—leaving me with a not-quite-ripe selection.
They tasted like lightly sweetened strawberries mixed with a bit of apple peel. That is, they tasted very good.
There were a couple Cardinals stirring up a ruckus with some Robins in a much taller tree nearby. Its boughs erupted with metallic chirps, then excited warbles and a flurry of fluttering wings competing with each other, one pair zagging around and above another, climbing chaotically upward until they escaped into the open and parted ways.
If you concentrate intensely on the present, all you’ll find is humility. Humility in silence and humility in the fast paced world moving all around you. I don’t mean the cars packed full of comfortable people who sincerely believe they need to get where they’re going as quickly as possible. I don’t mean the ambitious hustlers working their way up a dead-end ladder. I mean those things that you don’t even realize are happening.
The birds building nests in forgotten hanging baskets. The deer waiting till night to journey from the top of the hill to the river bottoms and back again. The countless insects crawling, burrowing, flying for their lives. The clouds blowing directly above our heads and the slow miracle of the sprouting watermelon and the budding flowers of a Tulip Poplar.
An infinity of life and action directly around all of us.
What are my ambitions worth against the simple present. When I allow my senses to be completely overwhelmed with all the data immediately available, I become embarrassed. I write, sometimes, as if my life depends on mapping out this digital world and on learning to use these new technologies. Sometimes I’m foolish enough to write as if I’m some sort of revolutionary on the cusp of a grander movement.
But sometimes—not often enough—I step outside to see that the problems of this world are made up. Inventing numb comfort and then inventing flawed solutions for healing numb comfort and then inventing methods for polishing the flaws in the solutions for healing numb comfort.
The real struggle is in the present and in the world that happens without us.
I’m not sure what progress is. A sham, probably, as we go on exchanging our roots and our humanity for these illusions of grandeur.
We’re so insulated from the depth of the present, so invested in the fantasy of ambition and independence, the narratives of big media and popular culture, that we aren’t able to see what is. What very simply is.
We show no reverence for the past and give no consideration for the future.
The world goes on without us. The weather does not wait. Death pays no mind to our hopes and dreams.
So what are these battles we’re so invested in winning, when we’ve already lost the war.
A silent, humble spirit is the only revolution.
- May 21st, 2012