I wish someone (you) could really see what it is like to be me. I think it may be impossible to describe in words, so I’m going to try. For you, for me.
The last time I was in Onalaska I really realized how human I was, in a new way, when I was thinking about the inevitability of my own death. Why am I alive, why do I know life, if only to die? And why do I know death? And from the darkness of my mind I felt my own heart beating. My brain knows I will die, yet my heart keeps beating in spite of. Something about that innate dichotomy feels very essentially human.
As I grow older and gain more experience and hurt and love and meditate more [side note: often the last thing I want to do in the entire world is sit to meditate, even though it is the purest medicine I can conceive of…perhaps this will make it on my Human list (see below)], I feel my human life becoming more real. Right now, as I sit at the cabin owned by my future sister, with a hot woodstove and yellow down booties and tea that was once to hot to drink, with dog hair on the rug and nascent knitting projects and outside the leaves are dying, my life feels more real than it ever has. It’s as if there is always a dusty, greasy glass pane suspended in my field of vision, and every new experience of pain or joy comes with a rag in its ephemeral hand to wipe away a little more grime. Slowly I see my humanity for what it really is.
Perhaps ironically, my recent scientific endeavors have opened me up spiritually. To say there is nothing spiritual in the communication of neurons and in the tireless workings of our cells’ organelles is blind and sad to me. Magic that we can’t even begin to grasp is occurring furiously, continuously, in our own bodies. Furthermore, the miracle of abstract, novel thought arising in my brain and translating from my central nervous system to my skeletal muscles to write these words is ungraspably grand. Even wilder, the magic of my conceptual mind is conceiving of the magic of my conceptual mind. Please think about that.
In the spirit of list making, here are some examples of what I consider pure Humanness.
- A lifetime of the same repeated mistakes, especially in the face of “knowing better”.
- Dreading the “sit” until you sit and it’s like pure spring water flowing into your dirty veins until it gets hard and you spend the last fifteen minutes waffling about whether to get up prematurely and make coffee.
- The unique and strange satisfaction of popping a pimple when it was really ready.
- Feeling so lonely and lost you can’t move. Or you don’t stop moving in an attempt that the lost loneliness can’t find you.
- Driving across town to buy a $3.49 bottled sparkling water from Arkansas when you live in Fairbanks, Alaska. Other species don’t do this.
- Watching the inner workings of your mind unravel at 3 pm on a Thursday while deciding which shape of pasta to buy and calmly pondering if this is what going insane feels like.
- Asking the same boy out again even when it was pretty clear it didn’t work out the first time but maybe there’s a chance now? Also see: hiding uncertainty, fear, and confusion behind respectful, mature, and honest communication with the opposite sex.
- Guilt and shame.
I feel like I present myself as capable, hard-working, driven, strong, independent, and successful. To really know me, you need to know that I’m fragile, scared, habitual, and self-serving. Being a human in remarkably messy. I want to see you as a messy human being. I want to love you as one too. Please show me your heart mess and if I’m feeling brave I’ll show you mine.
I’m just trying to continue on with both eyes open.
Klimt, The Friends, 1971