On being

Sometimes just being seems so simple, but there other times when being seems paradoxically hard. I find that daily heat of summer in Texas to be both simple and complex: one really doesn’t need to do much more than drink water and stay in the shade in order to get by, but is there more to life than just getting by? The question that poets and philosophers have wrestled with since there have been poets and philosophers is both complex and simple, but it also might be irrelevant. Life often has the meaning that we are willing to give it. Most of the universe seems to be dedicated to the simplification of complex systems, of dissipating energy, of searching for equilibrium, all of which seems to run contrary to the hopes and dreams of most people, who are busy building castles in the air, planning for the future, stashing away a pile of nuts for winter, hoping that things will get better, all the while forgetting about the importance of being in the here and now. Perhaps being is more a state of mind than it is a physical action or a series of objects. As Voyager 1 drifts out of the Terran solar system, one wonders about both the expanse that makes up our universe and the loneliness of an ancient computer that continues to power the middle-aged satellite, which still listens to radio commands that take over seventeen hours to reach it. Sometime in the future, around 2024, its nuclear power will run out of fuel and the lights will go out, but it will continue to drift, quietly through the vast black vacuum of space. The satellites mission was simple, and its very existence unquestioned. It has no fear of its end, no consciousness or self-awareness to complicate its mission. People are not satellites, fairly unaware of their futures, completely clueless about whether anything they are doing is right or correct. We second guess or plans, misunderstand our motives, trapped by ambiguity, confused by chaos, blinded by prejudice, bias, and relativism. Yet, that is the paradox of being. The world is not simple or easy to understand. Multiple correct answers to simple questions make navigating life a much more complex proposition than just a simple walk through a park. Medieval writers often compared life to a pilgrim’s journey to some holy site. I think that this was just so much wishful thinking on their part while they tried to ignore the fragmented, chaotic, non-linear nature of daily life. We wish our lives could be a simple as Voyager 1, but we all know deep down in our hearts that our dreams and desires complicate our lives in ways which are too innumerable to list here. Happiness seems elusive, solitude clings to us like an errant shadow, and we often fail to live up to any of our own expectations. We have met the enemy and he is us, as Pogo once said. Yet the human heart has a stamina that often appears superhuman. Even in the most mind-boggling disasters and tragedy, people are often shown, tears on their faces, explaining how they are going to start over, rebuild, keep going, even when their dreams have been destroyed by a raging flood or catastrophic storm. Where does this capacity for optimism come from? When the simple act of being seems nigh on impossible, people pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and begin again. Seems simple enough.