The virus is coming.
Actually, it’s probably not coming. But if it was, what would you do with your dwindling days?
And I don’t mean what would your animal self do. I don’t mean the things you’d do to survive. I don’t mean the looting and the hiding and the procreating. I’m not wondering what your fear would tell you to do; I’m wondering what your soul would tell you to do?
I’m wondering: who would you call?
I’m wondering: if you had one last chance, what new way would you find to tell the ones you love about the depth of that love?
I’m wondering what you would pay attention to. What would you soak up and drink in like it might be your last taste? I’m wondering if you’d pay attention to the glint of sun off your child’s eyelashes. I’m wondering if you’d feel the skin of your lover—not just touch it, but feel it. I’m wondering if the smell of freshly cut grass and the sound of late-summer cicadas winding up and winding down would make you ache with gratitude. I’m wondering if every ripple on a pond would be cause for celebration. I’m wondering if the birds in the trees would sound like a choir and the people in front of us would look like gods.
I’m wondering if we would wake up.
Because I’m standing in line at a Starbucks on the morning CNN has announced the United States is bringing Ebola to America for the first time. I’m watching the baristas scuttle around and I’m watching the customers in line—empty-faced and device-dazed. I’m watching my distracted-frantic life pass before my eyes, and I’m realizing: no amount of caffeine can awaken humanity from the stupor it’s chosen.
I’m watching us all, and I’m thinking about my puppy in the backyard. I’m thinking of how he hurls himself out the door to chase squirrels for hours. He chases them like the world depends upon it. I’m thinking I’ve lived a lot like my dog, chasing the squirrels of protection and competition and achievement and perfection, as if they were the purpose and the point of my days.
I’m wondering if we would stop chasing squirrels.
I’m standing in a Starbucks on a Friday morning and I’m thinking about the graveyard I was standing in on a Friday morning exactly one week ago:
I’m standing at the graveside memorial service of my last grandparent—my paternal grandmother. She has been returned to ashes and what is left of her sits in an urn before us and in the moments before she is lowered into the ground a choir behind us sings “Hallelujah” as if they will never sing it again. The sky is gray with indifference but an ancient maple towering above us is caught in the throes of a rushing wind and it joins the chorus and its roaring leaves sing life into this moment of death, and the moment is so sacred I can barely stand the weight of it—it’s sacred not because of the death but because of the one-chance life that gave birth to the death.
And the maple seems to roar, “What will you do with your one life?”
The maple cries, “Will you live it awake, or will you chase your squirrels?”
As she’s lowered downward I look upward at the undulating tree and, in this moment, her death is a hallowed reminder of life. In this crossroads of life and death, the joy and the sorrow feel inseparable.
Joy and sorrow are, in fact, present and inseparable in every moment.
Standing in a graveyard and standing in a Starbucks, I want to wake up to that reality. I’m wondering if we all might wake up and look at each other and look at life and feel the aching depths of it and the joyous heights of it. And I’m wondering if we all might just settle into the enough-ness of that.
The barista hands me my coffee and, without taking a sip, I feel like I’m finally awake and I tell him thank you, and I look him in the eye. His gaze wavers because we’re all rusty at eye contact, aren’t we?
The virus probably isn’t coming.
It probably won’t kill us.
But, if we allow it, the virus might just save us.
One waking moment at a time.
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