The unknowable

Ever since Grant was born, I’ve been thinking. Or thoughts have been percolating – I’m not sure how active I’ve been in the process.

Nothing has felt so inevitable and uncontrollable and as if I were being delivered myself, as giving birth to Grant – not even birthing the twins. The twins were induced. It was a highly controlled event.We checked in at 8 in the morning, was hooked up to an IV, and by 3:20pm I had two babies. It was, essentially, a piece of cake.

With Grant, everything was different. I didn’t know when labor would happen, I 100% would have given up if I could at any point in the process, and I was more surprised than anyone that I was there at the end. It made me realize – truly realize for the first time – that I will actually die one day. Force of will (which I have in spades) will not be sufficient. What we want is not taken into account when biological processes kick in.

I’m 35. I’ve lived roughly a third of the way through my life, if everything goes according to plan (and it might not). But that means I have maybe around 60-70 (maybe even 80, who knows) years to do whatever it is I am going to do. I’ve done some already, like have my babies, which will be something for the future. And there are lots of women who really came into their own in their 40s – after children are set on their own path.

Some people don’t need 35 years to start thinking big. Some people need longer. Some people are capable of massive projects and movements that shake the world – but not all of us are. Instead, we can be the best at what it is that matters to us. Caring deeply about something and working hard at it is important – both to give life to the thing we care about, and to show by example.

I don’t know what happens after we die. I know what happens to the things left behind, however. The things that last are the things that were tended and cared for. The things that dissolve away are the things that were neglected or not attended to. Sometimes these things are possessions – I have my grandmother’s copy of Gone with the Wind – I know it was her favorite book and it has special meaning for me. It makes me think of Scarlett O’Hara differently than I might otherwise. Sometimes it’s simple knowledge – I know the same grandmother was an avid gardener and did a wonderful job with it. It makes me appreciate how difficult it is to put together a lovely garden and keep it alive (so far, I have not inherited this skill and passion). What about consciousness? A thing can’t be made from nothing. I have a thought that when consciousness leaves a body, it moves – mingles, becomes a spark that is another consciousness – combined with other loose sparks to form something new, but something ancient as well. Like how we drink the water that dinosaurs drank – consciousness flows around ourselves like time. I feel that we don’t have to worry about the consciousness of those who have left us. They will be what they will be. We should instead worry about being kind to everyone and everything around us – because quite aside from not knowing anyone’s story, we don’t know who else is behind those eyes.

Taking care of each other should be a fundamental truth. And in lots of places, it is. Other places, it isn’t. The anonymity afforded by the internet, for example, seems to give plenty of people the smallest excuse for cruelty. At the beginning of this year, I predicted that the comments section would be reclaimed. It turns out that I am way, way ahead in this prediction, and it has not yet come to pass. But I do think it will. This year has been, indeed, worse for comment sections (and all of 2016 has been compared to the comments section on YouTube) than perhaps previous years. Now, perhaps, finally, we can begin to swing back the other way. Moderation to curate conversations, to leave behind a dialogue instead of fanatical shouting. Taking care of each other to help bring out the very best in each other, to help each other move towards the things that we are the very best at.

Over the next two thirds of my life, I hope that this remains my guiding principle. That my children can remember that I love to read, to doodle, and to help others up. While we may not have eternity, we can all do amazing things with even the simplest tools. We just have to care.

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