Often in this hectic age, it is easy to get lost among the trees (day-to-day living) and not see the forest (LIFE itself). It happens to me still, and I would bet, to most of us. Losing perspective – I love that word – is the perfect description of the situation. A short-sighted, localized perspective binds us up in the angst of the moment and blinds us to the greater realities of life and living that lie beyond our distracted consciousness.
It is one of the great benefits (scarce, to be sure) of older age… and retirement – that one becomes more able to quickly recognize that a healthy perspective has been pushed aside by an invasive, troubling angst. For younger folks – and I tap into my own years of experience – it is much harder to dis-entangle one-self from such significant lapses in “awareness.” As a young man, I did learn the lesson we all eventually come to depend upon – namely, that no matter how dark the current storm, the skies will clear and the sun will reappear. Our personal problems do not count for much in the greater scheme, and they are usually not as bad as they first seem. Those aspects of a healthy perspective provided much comfort in any number of very stressful times-past. Things usually “worked out” fine.
How Did a “Bag of Bones” Get This Far?
Who and What Are We Anyway?
My wife will attest to the fact that I have a rather “edgy” attitude toward perspective; I think what I think and it does pertain to the topic at hand, so I will share it. Like my wife, I grew up in a wonderful household where common-sense views and conventional thinking were the norm. After many years, now, my worship of common-sense has expanded to the point where it forces me to view things differently than in my youth – from a much-expanded perspective. I do “call them as I seem them,” and from the vantage point of many years, I do trust my vision more than ever.
An inherent sense of wonder/awe and a background in science and technology has led me to conclude that, fundamentally, we humans are exquisitely crafted “biological machines” powered by a top-of-the-line computer (the brain) – no great revelation, there! Our body is chock-full of sensors (nerves), electrical wiring (nerve-paths) and an energy-conversion system capable of fueling all our physical activities. And, yes, there is that eternal, nagging, seemingly impenetrable question: What about the soul? How does that relate to machines? Are we indeed crafted in the image of God and imbued with an intangible, special grace which we alone, among living things, possess? And to what extent is the Creator involved in our lives? I wish I had answers to those greatest-of-all questions – more in a future post, perhaps.
One thing is for certain, the analogy of a biological machine is very accurate. We are a biological creature like all other life, and despite the questions posed by soul, evolution, and advanced intelligence, that is an image that can influence our perspective significantly. I saw in yesterday’s news that a biometric prosthetic leg for amputees has been demonstrated which operates from the electrical nerve impulses sent by the brain. In other words, walking becomes “normal” just by thinking about it – the way most of us do! That sort of technological accomplishment may make some people nervous; it excites me very much – certainly because of its ultimate benefits for those who need it – but more for the validation of who and what we are.
I marvel at what we humans have accomplished with our minds despite our petty human quirks and our inbred self-interest (for the sake of survival – like all creatures). I reflect upon how vulnerable we are knocking-about in this cold, detached universe. Appreciating the technology it takes to make a brain-directed artificial leg, I marvel first at our technical achievement, but even more so at the achievement of God/Nature from which the original/evolved design emanated. Realizing how fragile we are as a species and as individuals, I marvel that my personal “bag of bones” has lasted for seventy three years, having survived many miles traveled during a myriad of life-adventures.
Astronomical clock at Prague, ca. 1410: Overview and detailed reminder!
It has been a healthy perspective for me, this view of each human as an exquisite creation, but so vulnerable… and seemingly meaningless as one in billions – except perhaps in the eyes of the Creator who we all yearn to know. A comfort level is achieved through the combination of a healthy respect for the human species coupled with the realization that we are each but an infinitesimal stitch in a huge tapestry which we can only glimpse. For some, these viewpoints may seem comfort-threatening; for me, they are the ultimate comfort – a sense of valid perspective on life and living. Our earthly troubles seem so small in the whole scheme of things!
Break Free from the Tangled Trees and Get to a Higher Vantage Point;
from There, Survey the Majesty of the Forest
Take Time to Smell the Roses for “This Same Flower
That Smiles Today, Tomorrow Will Be Dying”