Superpower / Duty

I’ve been thinking about humans, as a species.

We seem to be undergoing a species-wide crisis while all the other things on the planet are doing fine. Better, in fact, since our carbon footprint suddenly shrank several shoe sizes.

Some people say this is Mother Earth putting us back in our place. I don’t know. Maybe. Nature does this to all of her species once in a while–I don’t assume it’s anything personal. We’d like to think we get special treatment, but we don’t really.

I go to the beach to breathe in the sky and search for my sanity, and I find myself wondering: what does the planet even need us for? Besides building glass and concrete cities to cover the land and sucking fossil fuels out of the earth only to dump them into the sky, what can we do that other species can’t? Even an elephant can paint a picture.

So?

I know what the earth needs buffalo for: to trim and fertilize the plains. It needs birds and monkeys to spread seeds that keep the jungles growing. Wolves cull the smaller mammals in the mountains. Hawks and foxes keep the mice population down. But people? Would there be too much of anything without us?

I don’t know. Not that I can think of. So what is our thing? We must have one.

And then I thought of one thing–one thing humans can do that other species can’t–not dogs, crocodiles, guanacaste trees, blue whales, daffodils, kitty-cats, boa constrictors, or bougainvillea.

We can appreciate aesthetic beauty.

Plants and animals are capable of appreciation–I have no doubt about that–but I don’t think they appreciate the beauty of a sunset or a brilliant rainbow. My cat laying under the hibiscus bush appreciates the shade and the cool ground, but he doesn’t care about the flowers. The dogs playing with coconuts on the beach love the game but they aren’t sighing over the colors in the clouds. A rose bush likes bees I’m sure, but it doesn’t appreciate how beautiful a butterfly is.

People can do that. It might be our superpower. It might be our duty.

I feel compelled to state these observations as I watch our species struggle in an identity crisis brought on by something so small as to be invisible. Other species can love. Other species can help each other. Other species can build and create. But are we the only ones who can give value to something simply for its aesthetic beauty? I think we are.

And?

And, I don’t know. Is appreciating beauty going to save my life or yours if it comes down to that? I don’t see how. But there are a lot of things I don’t know, a lot of things I cannot conceive of in my little mind. I’ve got no health claims to make (unless we’re talking about mental health?); I just think this would be a great time to find something beautiful and appreciate the heck out of it. Go ahead: a cloud, a flower, a person, an animal, music, a work of art…

I’m joining you. It can’t hurt. Never underestimate the power of things you don’t understand and don’t even necessarily believe.

More di Gelso

i nonni stanno piantando
i fagiolini li
nei loro giardini al Parco
dei Fontanili
i pesci sono tornati
a nuotare nel fiumetto
sotto il ponte
la lavanda comincia a
fare i fiori violi, profumando
l’aria, chiamando gli appi
ma tu dove sei

eri qui, ne sono sicura
avevamo camminato qua
insieme a la mano
guardando i piccoli fiori del castagno
rubando le more di gelso

The Illuminated Half

You start getting used to being just you again.  Even if you don’t want to—you do.  It’s not like everything is always a surprise every day like it was at first.  It starts out like “50 First Dates,” with you having to tell yourself the whole story from beginning to end every single morning, but eventually when you wake up, you remember.  And your life slowly starts to resemble what it was a long time ago, before everything.  You liked it, then.  You like it now, sometimes.

You get better at not buying too much food at the grocery store.  You realize that you don’t need the car you don’t have, because a backpack full of food lasts for a week, anyway.  You stop expecting to relax on the weekends, because by the time you run all the errands on your list and do all the things that need to be done, it’s over.  Because you have to do each and every single thing yourself, one at a time.

It’s what happens.  In case you wondered.

Even though you have a good job and spend almost nothing, you are still always running short of money.  Because rent is rent and the bills are the bills.  One person or two don’t change the rent, the electricity, the cost of wi-fi.  But only half as much comes in.  You try not to stress out about it.  Anyway, you have a Jenga towers of tiny containers of leftovers piling up in the freezer.  You make a mental note to that you need more tiny containers.

You’re surprised to discover that even though you want to go out and see people, when you get there and see them, you soon want to leave and go home.  What’s there to talk about anyway?  And people seem possessed by this inexplicable need to talk all the time.  You wonder if there is anyone else on the planet who comprehends the phrase “comfortable silence.”  You realize that if there is, you don’t know them.  You wish you did.  You wish other people had more in common with cats.

You look up at the half moon one evening and suddenly you get it.  It’s the perfect analogy.  The half moon.  That’s what you are.  Half of a thing.  The illuminated half.  The half that reflects light.  The other half is there, but you can’t see it because it can’t reflect light.  Exactly.  But it’s still there.  It’s still the other half.

Then you feel a little bit better.