"For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then disappears" -James 4:14
Evanescence- The Energy Impetus of Mortal Awareness
“¿De donde sacas tanta energía?”, a Spanish-speaking friend of mine asked me recently.
“Where do you get so much energy from?”
The truth was that at that very moment I felt about as energetic as overcooked vermicelli . The question came in the form of a text message which I received while huddled in the top of a 60 foot tall Ponderosa pine after having run several rugged miles through a high elevation mountain canyon on a late Sunday afternoon. The ambient temperature hovered in the high 90’s. Lizard’s tongues hung out in heat-stricken dismay.
I didn’t answer right away. My interlocutor knew that I had had a very busy weekend. What she couldn’t understand was why, after the whirlwind, I wasn’t curled up in front of a television with a cold (insert refreshing beverage of choice), but instead was engaged in intense physical activity.
I mulled over both the question and the answer as my 2 companions and I pounded down the dusty, granite-strewn homeward trail, skidding around sandy switchbacks like ecstatic, sun-addled dervishes.
The question, I believe, belies an essential misunderstanding. It assumes some deep, quasi-superhuman fountain of always tappable moxie. The question insinuates an elemental difference between the doer and the sitter. If the active, sweat-drenched doer replies, “Why, I have such vim because each morning at 5:32 I quaff 4 milligrams of Enerlife!”, then the person on the tuffet can suppose that if only he had some Enerlife, then things would be different, by golly! Or perhaps, if the activity-monger were to mention that his great-grandfather was an Olympic decathlete, then the enervated questioner could slap his thigh and exclaim, ” I knew it, it’s genetic!”
I do not deny the potential validity of “The Supplement Supposition” or “The Chromosomal Catapult”, however, the fact is that for many of those who choose to Go when the mind and body are saying, “Stop!”, a simpler realization is at work.
Have you ever blown those fuzzy white tendrils off of a dandelion that has gone to seed? The white, fuzzy part is called a pappus, (it derives from Latin root referring to the downy white hairs of a grandfather’s beard.) Each one is attached to an achene, or seed. This ingenious setup allows for wind-aided dispersal and propagation of the plant.
In the broader context, we are the pappi. We have all, to some extent, begun the transition from golden-haired, lion-toothed child to frail, aged stalk surmounted by rapidly fleeing hairs whitened by the passage of inexorable time. This is not fatalism; it is realism. The Bible describes it this way in a passage recorded sometime during the 5th century BCE:
“The span of our life is 70 years,
Or 80 if one is especially strong.
…They quickly pass by, and away we fly.”
When one comes to realize the reality of carnal mortality, a change in thinking can begin to occur. Said Benjamin Franklin:
“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”
Too often, we fail to heed Poor Richard’s advice and instead allow the vacuous insipidity of so-called “culture” to pull us into its maw. Instead of ‘raging against the dying of the light’, we passively submit; tacitly, at least, acquiescing to normalcy.
I have lately been reading Thoreau’s somewhat ponderous musings in Walden and, interestingly, although the book was first published in 1854, the sentiments expressed therein are salient in 2014.
“It is the luxurious and dissipated who set the fashions which the herd so diligently follow. The traveller who stops at the best houses, so called, soon discovers this, for the publicans presume him to be a Sardanapalus, and if he resigned himself to their tender mercies he would soon be completely emasculated. I think that in the railroad car we are inclined to spend more on luxury than on safety and convenience, and it threatens without attaining these to become no better than a modern drawing-room, with its divans, and ottomans, and sun-shades, and a hundred other oriental things, which we are taking west with us, invented for the ladies of the harem and the effeminate natives of the Celestial Empire, which Jonathan should be ashamed to know the names of. I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion. I would rather ride on earth in an ox cart, with a free circulation, than go to heaven in the fancy car of an excursion train and breathe a malaria all the way.”
Wanting to ‘ride on…the ox-cart, with a free circulation” is what motivates a person to seek the difficult yonder instead of the insalubrious profferings of society. The heady rush of wind-fired lungs and blooded muscles is preferable to the leaden yoke of video game-stained thumbs.
Thoreau adds: “The best works of art are the expression of man’s struggle to free himself from this condition, but the effect of our art is merely to make this low state comfortable and that higher state to be forgotten.”
Why forget the “higher state” of the beauty that surrounds us in nature, in creation, in the miracle of our own bones and muscles, sweat and breath, simply to sip contentedly the so-called “art” of docility and passivity so commonplace today?
The aforementioned Divine reference presents hope beyond the 80 years of the especially strong. It promises:
“The righteous will possess the earth,
And they will live forever on it”
Until that time comes, we are the pappi. Will the mundane wind blow our fading selves to where what remains of life is a footstool of indolence? Or will we choose to be the breeze, directing our evanescent achenes to where they will flourish in pure soil?
¿De donde saco tanta energía? Where do I get the energy from? I run climb jump breathe live, not necessarily because I have the energy, but rather, because these things give me energy that the world would otherwise sap without an “if you please”.
Do not nod a resigned “Okay” to the resigned proponents of life parasitism. The world will suck you to a desiccated husk if you let it.
Be the energy that you would like to have!