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Life: Powerful And Fragile

8 June 2009 No Comment

My younger daughter lost her first tooth last week and the older turned 17 a couple of weeks ago. I woke up this morning with both of these things on my mind, a melancholy feeling and a sense that life is slipping me by.

Sometimes I believe I’ll live forever, and at other times I’m very connected to my own mortality.

Isn’t this one of the very many paradoxes we live with? The power of life itself and the fragility of life in us as individuals?

Fragility of life

I spoke to a friend today who’s living with the imminent death of her husband from disease. They don’t know how long he has left, but they do know it is much less than he might have if he were healthy.

Every time I turn on the TV or read the newspapers I’m faced with my own mortality through the deaths of others. More than 200 lost in a plane crash, 50 killed in a car bomb, an estimated  10,000 children dying daily from diseases connected to lack of clean drinking water.

Every living creature dies. The manner, time and place are unknown to most of us, but we do know it will happen.

There is no escaping this, there is only living it.

This has always been a powerful reason to me, for living this life of mine to the full. To experience as much as possible, learn what I can, give what I have and treat each moment of life as supremely precious.

My life, your life, everyone’s life.

It has long been a mystery to me how some people are capable of killing or inflicting suffering on others.

I can only conclude they are not connected to just how wonderful and transient life is.

My own life is fragile, delicate and unique. There is no other identical manifestation of life, there never was and never will be again. How could I even consider wasting it, abusing it or fulfilling it any less than to its maximum potential?

It is this fragility that makes me sensitive to both the joys and the suffering around me. That drives me to seek to protect and make this place a safer one for us all.

Power of life

If I raise my head a little I see my wife sitting on the sofa by the window, our 2 dogs sleeping on the floor, a couple of flies buzzing, several trees growing outside and a few birds flying around. All that beauty available to me with hardly moving a muscle.

No-one knows how long life has been around on this planet, how widespread it is through the universe or what life will look like in the distant future. Much of this can be fun to hypothesise and imagine and remains, for the most part, the stuff of science fiction.

I grew up during the Cold War and the topic we discussed most passionately in student bars was the likelihood of war and whether we (the ‘good’ guys) and they (the ‘bad’ guys) would destroy each other. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) was the way we described it and it seemed a reality to our young minds that mankind had the power to destroy the planet. Or if not the planet, at the very least, all life on the planet.

Now, the Climate Change debate seems to have taken over the MAD concept and ‘destroying our planet’ has moved from Cold War rhetoric into Environmental rhetoric.

Let me be clear.

I abhor the wanton destruction of life and irresponsible use of the the world’s resources in the interests of profit.

But we do not have the power to destroy the planet.

I doubt we even have the power to destroy our own species, let alone life in all its forms. Life is deeply rooted into this planet of ours and is stronger than we are – and always will be.

Life itself is here to stay, it is enduring, adaptable and you and I are part of its intricate web. I also believe my life force, my soul if you like, is permanent and immortal.

This is not a reason to abuse our planet but even greater reason to treat life with respect. To be in awe of it, admire it and feel humble in its presence.

It is the strength of life that gives me a sense of purpose and  permanence. A conviction that it is worthwhile making an effort to make something out of this life of mine, no matter how small and insignificant it might be in the grand scheme of things.

It is the fragility of life that brings to me this almost overwhelming joy and sadness when my younger daughter loses her first tooth and my elder daughter turns 17 …

… and it’s the power of life that helps me withstand the fact that I was not around to witness either.

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