It shimmered below the tropical current of the Fijian waters. A bright mid-afternoon sun bore down on this particular pocket of ocean blue to reveal nature’s jewel quietly twinkling at me without reserve or demand.
It was lapis coloured. A starfish among a family of many in this blue tribe. I was awed. Barely a moment passed before I seized one of these family members for my own; visual proof of my freshly minted marital conquest. I was naive, reckless with life. I’m now disgraced by that moment.
For 16 hours I soaked it in our hotel room’s sink to keep it fresh for the next day’s departure. Thinking what, exactly? That it would survive being smothered in double-wrapped towels, wedged beneath designer shoes and bikinis, to insure its transatlantic preservation? That it would weather a 17 hour transport across 2 continents and 3 customs controls to my arrogant New York kingdom where it would die yet again in a Le Creuset kitchen pot?
What unconsciousness possessed me to possess it on this, our final day of honeymooning, is only now apparent more than three decades later. Greed sprung from need; to own something special which in turn would make me feel special. It compelled me to uproot a foreigner from its homeland with absolute triumph and disregard for the outcome.
Back home in my kitchen I valiantly unwrapped my lapis prize, now withered, pungent and lacklustre from the voyage. I dipped the already dead beauty into a pot of boiling water to clean the stench of rotted life and resuscitate it, insodoing witnessing its second death. From the outside in.
The sprays of heat vapours on my incredulous face were blue as it shed its mighty facade. All trace of this jewel-toned creature literally dissolved before and between my eyes till it blurred with tears to a matted brown. The lifeless, “ordinary” looking, stinking contents was definitively dead. Part of me was too. I sobbed over the boiled mishap and my pretentiously unconscious behaviour.
Twenty years later I repeated the error. This time on another distant shore – Paris – where another exotic life form caught my eye and was uprooted from its natural habitat … to become betrothed. For more than a decade I paraded my triumphant conquest believing “spouse” to be my entree into “special”. The more I tried to possess and make my conquest conform, the more this “alien” form tried to wriggle free … returning to his origins more than a decade later and leaving my fragile ego-system disturbed yet much the wiser.
People come and go. Life is born and dies. Moments are here then gone. It’s all fleeting, moving, ongoing. There is simply nothing that we can preserve with absolute certainty. Not even our thoughts, because they too will change.
Holding on, trapping, conquering, packaging, memorialising, mythologizing and on and on it goes. Like us, to dust. Energy is the only enduring thing but its form changes. Form. And Matter. The form shouldn’t matter. But in our material world inhabiting our material form, it certainly does. Big time.
We want to “possess” in the name of greed, need, and the eternal void within. We want to quantify … and qualify … as a sincere and sole measure of our existence in relation to that which overwhelms our soul: here today, gone tomorrow. Understanding our fragile essence and befriending it, cultivating a rapore, is a way to inform ourselves – in form. The hollow of a tree trunk or of a dissociated human being … the drought conditions of a parched landscape or of the dry response from a lover … the lava flow of an erupted volcano or of the volatile temper from a co-worker … Nature. Human Nature. What on earth gave us the misguided impression we were distinct and separate organisms?
Hocus Pocus where’s your focus – on wisdom or whiz-dumb? Are you whooshing to the next conquest? Bypassing and dismissing the essence of whatever or whomever you’ve “seized”, till death do you part? Support Life or Life Support? The former imbues us with light because we’re infused with Life. The latter limps us along a sedated yellow brick road that’s as warm and friendly as the brick’s rough and inanimate surface.
Prudence and care to us all. Before you hold another, kiss another, hug another, look into the eyes of another, have a chat with another, ask another how they are, tell another “we need to talk”, grab another as your own … redirect your focus. To an all but forgotten other. You. Are you there? Are you aware – of You? And do you care? You’re in full possession but not of what you think you should have, rather what you were already gifted and probably never unwrapped. Go on, look inside. Expand that vision from the world of you in “habit” … to the world you inhabit, which also inhabits you.
Environmental protection begins with environMental reflection. Now there’s a gift worth claiming as our own.