In the quiet hours this morning as Steve slept beside me, the maple tree performed a Wayang shadow dance on the south window.
My mind began to wonder: what is 7 billion? Are there 7 billion maple leaves in this town? Has my heart beat 7 billion times? Have I written 7 billion words? Are there 7 billion of any other species on earth besides humans right now? Are there 7 billion ants or bats or mice? If I am one of 7 billion, does my life have meaning? Am I unique? Have I produced anything of value? Am I a “productive member of society”? And failing to produce any anxiety about this question, I ask myself: does it matter?
I found myself in a rather peaceful state, suspended as any other late fall maple leaf, not very concerned if the next gust of wind should liberate me forever from my connective capacity. Steve stirred and asked me what I was doing. “Just thinking….” As he awoke more fully, he told me of his late night reading adventures and the existential anger it stoked. We began discussing morality and deep ecology and meaning. At breakfast, we listened to Beethoven and Charles Ives and contemplated the difference in the world of the 1800s and the post WWI era. He mentioned Nietzsche and his mental breakdown and death. He was an insomniac and took morphine and chloral hydrate; he also had syphilis. I thought of my brilliant father’s last 7 years living with Alzheimer’s. What is it like to be separated from meaning? Steve finds it frightening. I imagine that it brings you closer to the state of an animal in the wild. Do they have need of symbolic representations that are recognizable and repeatable? Do they need meaning to live their lives? We would probably find it impossible to function for a day without it. Perhaps in meditation we suspend it for a time. Is that what Enlightenment is?
Without the blinds covering my window, the maple leaves are golden and bright.