By Larry Karsteadt
Along with the stresses in my daily life has been a concurrent period of lasting epiphany, starting with the coalescing of several important reads and conversations, and peaking after several days trying to assist on behalf of the agency I direct with the Mendocino Complex Fires in northern California. I watched fire fighters and many others, some with homes in jeopardy, working in difficult conditions for days on end to save lives and property. While there, I met the “Mayor of Middletown” who barely escaped a similar fire three years ago before losing everything. Now homeless I think, he kept the town park spic and span. We talked about life, books and people who put their lives on the line for others.
My epiphany was simply this: the original origin story (read “Origin Story: A Brief History of Everything” by David Christian) began in the micro instant we know as The Big Bang, and since then the Universe has been unfolding, with the Yin and Yang of it all, toward increasing randomness (entropy) with pockets, thanks to gravity, of increasing complexity. First stars were born, heavier elements essential to life were forged in dying larger stars, Planet Earth and the moon formed, and we now live in a Universe made up of a 100 billion galaxies. Regardless of origin, be it Earth or distant stars, life happened here and co-evolved with increasing complexity and species diversity to collectively create life support systems essential to us all. Out of this Universal process pops up at least one conscious, storytelling, dreaming, artistic, opinionated species, Homo sapiens, with a collectively growing understanding of who we are and how all of this happened. Most importantly for me, the tendency toward increasing awareness of the ‘Wonder of it All’ by so many people around the world is pretty compelling and I feel beyond blessed to have gotten to this level of comprehension at all.
Yes, we humans are collectively threatening Earth’s essential life sustaining systems and we may be on the brink of extinction for many more species and perhaps ourselves, but what if, just for fun, the Universal tendency toward increasing self-awareness is what all this is about. Sort of like the Universe is waking up to itself through pockets of bliss experienced, say by you and me, and all of us, including the Universe that we are part of. Billions of years are left to mess around with this process before entropy prevails, and it’s likely that life and self-awareness will happen again and again, so why the heck shouldn’t we all take ourselves a bit less seriously and enjoy the time left to us more? Spiritual teachers have been saying for millennia that we’re all connected to the whole, quantum physicists are heading that way, too, and most everyone who’s experienced, say, a total solar eclipse, seen the Grand Canyon, snorkeled with a manatee, walked with a mountain gorilla, hugged a giant redwood tree, or whatever buzzes your bee, would have a hard time not thinking this is a pretty amazing Universe to wake up in each morning.
So if my little epiphany is even close to true, then for me at least, any tendency that moves us toward increasing self-, global and Universal knowledge and awareness, with gratitude and compassion for it all, is a really good path to try provided it includes appreciation of how we got here in the first place. The adversity we all face in life, the people who seem to be the most madding or difficult, may also be our best teachers along this brilliant voyage.