What if this is you?
What if that’s all that you are, nothing more, nothing less. Bone and sinew. Bag of blood. Electrical impulses leaping across synaptic clefts.
What if “you” begin and end, more or less, with a double helix of deoxyribonucleic acid? The wave in your hair, the look in your eye, the yearning in your heart — chemistry.
What if Keats had it exactly wrong? No “vale of soul-making,” this universe of ours. Nothing immortal. Yes, yes, the hydrogen atoms in your body almost inconceivably old, some 13.7 billion years old. Still, birthed. Birthed in a BANG! and ultimately bound (after many new adventures) for disintegration.
And what if this bee’s life is no less precious than your own? But I have a soul! And the bee doesn’t? Besides, we’ve covered that already. But I’m a higher form of life! Sure, sure — according to whom, by the way? I have culture: language, technology, fashion, pesticides! Well, have you ever seen a bee dance? Oh, come on, this is ridiculous. You can’t be serious. Stop kidding around. Not kidding. Well, I can tell you this. If it comes down to the bee or me, that bee’s going down. I don’t like honey anyway. Hmm. I hope you don’t much care for fruits and vegetables, either:
And what if, when you walk out of your door tomorrow morning, the sunlit vapor rising from your neighbor’s hedge, rising in ethereal wisps of milky-white, rising and thinning and fading and gone … what if at that moment you could know for a certainty that never again in all the years of your life would you see anything more beautiful than that?
And what if the past — the strife-torn past, the history inscribed in scars on your skin, those tales of insult and affront, your woeful chronicle of injustice, the weight of grievances taken up and borne by each generation in turn, unforgettable anger like burning embers dusted in ash — what if that past (when you catch a glimpse of it at the corner of your eye, in an unguarded moment) is in fact a roadside marker, slightly canted, rusting, with its humdrum litany of troop movements. Its dry recitation. Bloodless words.
And if … then maybe we could just focus on the here and now, and maybe we could feel a sense of urgency about doing one thing today, just the first step, mind you, in the direction of rescuing this planet.