"We are only about three hundred generations from ten thousand years ago.
"Although we are here today, tomorrow cannot be guaranteed. Keep this in mind! Keep this in mind!"
- Twelfth-century Korean Buddhist master Chinul.
Are we ready to think of all humanity as a living tree, carrying on splendidly without us? We easily regard a beehive or an ant colony as a single organism, and even a school of fish, a flock of dunlin, a herd of elk. And we easily and correctly regard an aggregate of individuals, a sponge or coral or lichen or slime mold as one creature - but us? When we people differ, and know our consciousness, and love? Even lovers, even twins, are strangers who will love and die alone. And we like it this way, at least in the West; we prefer to endure any agony of isolation rather than to merge and extinguish our selves in an abstract 'humanity' whose fate we should hold dearer than our own. Who could say, I'm in agony because my child died, but that's all right: Mankind as a whole has abundant children? The religious idea sooner or later challenges the notion of the individual. The Buddha taught each disciple to vanquish his fancy that he possessed an individual self. Huston Smith suggests that our individuality resembles a snowflake's: The seas evaporate water, clouds build and loose water in snowflakes, which dissolve and go to sea. The simile galls. What have I to do with the ocean, I with my unique and novel hexagon and spikes? Is my very mind a wave in the ocean, a wave the wind flattens, a flaw the wind draws like a finger?
We know we must yield, if only intellectually. Okay, we're a lousy snowflake. Okay, we're a tree. These dead loved ones we mourn were only those brown lower branches a tree shades and kills as it grows; the tree itself is thriving. But what kind of tree are we growing here, that could be worth such waste and pain? For each of us loses all we love, everyone we love. We grieve and leave. What marvels shall these future whizzes, damn their eyes, accomplish?"
- Annie Dillard
For the Time Being
running after my hat