Since the beginning of time on planet earth each day the sun has risen over the eastern horizon and each day it has set in the west. Earth completes a single revolution on its own axis every twenty four hours and it completes an elliptical journey around the sun every 365 days. The moon appears in its full glory, with no shadow from this planet, about every 28 days. And the tides of our oceans rise and fall with the gravitational force of this satellite, rising highest when the moon is full and bright. In temperate regions we are blessed with four seasons. Spring brings new life, plant dormancy is broken, countless animal species are born, and water becomes freed from frozen soils. During summer all things grow, life is full and thrives with few impediments, and the long days brings warmth to our region and our souls. In autumn summer retires in an avalanche of colors, falling leaves adorn the moist earth, and all plants and animals store energy to survive the cold months ahead. Winter in the season of dormancy, sleep, and survival. It is stark. It is harsh. It is nearly futile for the weak. And yet this time when all is most raw the living relish their own survival. Bitter cold makes us see our breath, over and over and over again and we know we are alive. We are still alive and willing; waiting for warmer days ahead when spring will once again bring rebirth.
Our planet consists of endless cycles and rhythms. Each day we take roughly 21,600 breaths and our heart beats about 86,400 times. We do not count each breath and most certainly don’t tabulate each heart beat but we am aware that these simple rhythms allow us to live. When we allow ourselves to be aware of these background cycles we find a meditative state. Being aware of the most simple of all actions is, somehow, inspirational.
Each moment is precious. Each instant cannot be replaced. Our time here is limited and cannot be repeated in its exact form. Our only real future is what follows us; our legacy, our children, the life of and on our planet.
In this world where constants repeat themselves over and over again it is disturbing to see the natural cycles and rhythms disturbed. And yes we must recognize that the only constant is change, but we must also realize that this planet has habits that should not be altered. Like children on a merry-go-round we should be able to expect each revolution to be as exhilarating, as pleasant , and as eye opening as the last.
Most people should recognize that these constants, these “forever” cycles, are changing. Yes, the sun comes up each day, but for many it feels hotter. Australia has for six long years been in its worse drought in about a thousand years. Wild kangaroos and domestic livestock are dying by the millions. Fresh water is disappearing at alarming rates, and the country seems thirsty for a return to days when this dry island had enough fresh water to get to the next day. Other parts of the world have suffered from nearly unprecedented floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, and hurricanes. The basic cycles are still present. The sun still comes up, and goes down. The earth still journeys once around the sun every 365 days. The moon still revolves around the earth once a month. But it seems as if the cycles have been unintentionally modified. Like a spinning top wobbles just before it falls our rhythm has been altered. We are seeing the first embers of a firestorm. And few humans seem to be noticing.
In America, the human species have their own daily rhythms. They rise with the sun. They take a hot shower. They turn on the lights. They may or may not have a hot breakfast. They drink their coffee or tea. They go to work. Millions and millions of people get in their automobiles and drive to their place of employment. On their way they get stuck in traffic jams. Their cars idle while they go nowhere and listen to NPR, Limbaugh, or music on the radio. And when the traffic moves they resume their journey; all the while burning billions of gallons of fossil fuel. More fossil fuel is burned every day in the United States than in the previous 4.4 million years since the dawn of the human era. And every morning millions of pounds of carbon are released into our precious air. It hangs in the sky like fog on an autumn day over the Mississippi River. The radiant heat gets trapped against the surface of our planet. And every day and every evening when people commute home, often one person per automobile, it happens again. Over and over and over again. An unnatural rhythm that has disrupted the natural cycles of our living planet. An aberrant behavior and system of behaviors that threaten our very existence.
These natural cycles; the mixing of the oceans, the prevailing winds over each hemisphere, the release of radiation from our planet, are as essential to our living planet as each heart beat and each breath that we take every day. Some say it is highly questionable as to whether or not this planet can support seven billion humans. And many agree that this is a good question and certainly a question worth pondering. But before we spend too much time thinking about this perhaps we should think a little about how we behave. Are we fueling the fire or are we attempting to pour water on the flame?
We live in an age when much is possible. Everyday a new technological miracle seems to appear that revolutionizes the way we live. I can’t believe that if we put our mind to the task that we can’t end our dependence on carbon based fuels. I can’t believe that we wouldn’t even sacrifice some of what we have to live for another day. I can’t believe that we wouldn’t conserve so that our legacy would be remembered as something very good rather than something incredibly bad. And for the sake of our children, our children’s children, and for the sake of all that lives on this glorious planet I can’t believe we cannot change our ways so that this planet lives to see the sun rise into infinity.
Now is the time. The earth has displayed her ailments. If we expect the planet to right our wrongs we are seriously mistaken. The human species must work together to make this world whole again. We must allow this planet to restore its natural rhythms so that each day the sun continues to rise and each day the sun continues to set. And each day every human being can take 21,600 breaths of clean air, and our heart will beat 86,400 times in tune with our planet.
These natural rhythms. The rhythms that have supported life for several billion years. Our hope should be that they will continue so that each day brings a new dawn and the necessary time to help us understand where we have been and where we are going.
Written for www.wildramblings in November of 2011. Please contribute this holiday season to an organization that helps our natural ecosystems to continue and thrive.