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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On a wing and a prayer

The Power of prayer

Prayer can mean different things to different people. Let’s break it down to its basic principles. If you are praying then you are usually asking for assistance (help me) or guidance (show me) with something. This is when you feel that you either don’t have the means or capability to help yourself or see the forest for the trees.


This also means that you are asking someone outside of yourself, whether it is God or angels or ancestors. Prayer doesn’t normally mean that you’re talking to a close friend (or parent) in another part of the world. That’s what phones are for. Begging and pleading to a parent isn’t considered prayer anyway.


But if we’ve eliminated God or any higher power in this section of our story, we have to then assume that you’re not praying to anyone. Nevertheless, pray we do. If you don’t then what do you do when you’re hanging from a cliff by the last thread on your rope, watching it steadily fray?  And as covered earlier, our main instinct is to survive. Screaming, or crying like a baby in the face of adversity is an expression of your helplessness and your will to live. You express, you shout at the top of your lungs; you shout for help, if anyone is in earshot; you turn your head skywards and ask someone to just swoop down from those big fluffy clouds and save your ass before it’s too late. Then, when the panic is over, and you’ve said what you needed to say to the world, you calm down and a sense of peace washes over you. You’ve let go of the NEED to live and resigned yourself to the inevitable fact that you’re going to die. Now you’re okay with that. Maybe one last choc nut sundae would have been nice, but here we are anyway. At that moment, the clouds spread apart and the sun shines on you. SNAP. The string gives way and you plummet the twenty centimeters to the ledge below.


What follows the stunned silence, the staring in disbelief at the rope still gripped in your knuckle-white fists, is profuse thanks and gratitude and promises of living life to the fullest and being less of a dick to strangers.


Who do you thank? Afterall the ledge wasn’t there a minute ago. What happened? What’s the bigger picture?


An extremely visceral experience triggers our survival instinct and a moment of clarity descends upon us. If we’re not using the spiritual or religious experience to explain this (and we are not) then what happened was you asked for help or guidance, your mind cleared of all the daily clutter, you analysed what was important in your life ‘right now’ and did what you could to move forward. In this case you saw that complete panic wasn’t the answer.


In a word: you went ‘within’ yourself to find the answer, to find the peace, help or guidance in that moment. Whether you saved yourself or not, that is what physically happened.


When in need, go within for the answers. Prayer is simply the asking. We then let go of the outcome. And whatever happens happens.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Origin & Survival of a species

The natural world is filled with thousands and thousands of species of animals and creatures that do not care about what their purpose on our planet is. The simplest and most basic concept that every life-form IS concerned with is…

 
1. SURVIVAL

That is all that any living being, sentient or stupid, is driven by. Life as we know it – animal or human – revolves around that simple Neanderthal principle. Add any meaning to that existence and you’re thinking like a human.

If you are a living organism then your natural instinct, rational mind, or reflexes tell you to eat, breathe, defend, eat, breathe, defend. This is why suicide is so foreign to animals, but to us as human beings who get to think about it and justify it, it is an option. If we have been given life, it is our universal right and obligation to protect that like a well-guarded treasure.
 

2. PROCREATE

Pro – in latin means ‘for’ or ‘in agreement with’. Being someone/something who is for creation. After we’ve (the animals) have survived, there is an inbred need to create offspring – spread our seed. More importantly, spread our DNA. And yet, a nest of ants is not doing it to leave a legacy behind, or have someone to look after them when they’re old. We all know what happens to the old and frail in the wild. Procreation is a natural state, not a ‘nice idea’ to have children.

 
3. PROTECT

While not all animals in the natural world adhere to this concept, most do. If you take a close look at the world around us you will be surprised by the animals that look after their young, and those that leave them to fend for themselves. A crocodile will take each individual hatchling in it’s mouth and deliver them safely to the water. Then another beautiful and graceful water reptile, the loggerhead turtle, will find a deserted beach in the middle of no where, lay her eggs, and abandone her young to hatch at sundown and fumble the hundred metres of shoreline, past waiting gulls, to be engulfed in raging seas. We won’t even try to understand what it is that makes the turtle hatchlings emerge after the sun has set, or why they know that they need to head for the ‘safety’ of the sea as quickly as possible. Or for the mother to travel thousands of kilometers and still come back to the same beach every time she chooses to lay her eggs.

Eat, breathe, feed your young, protect your offspring from predators. Simple.

 
4. TEACH (THE FAMILY DYNAMIC)

Street smarts. Teaching our children how to survive. Although some of us would like to think that our kids are the brightest, they are not like a black widow spider who instinctively knows how to hunt and build one of the world's most intricate structures - the web - if you put them behind the wheel of a car they will wreck it. Lions in Africa spend many hours teaching their cubs how to hunt. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.

 
5. THE HERD (The Group Dynamic)

As with the lion pride or herd of buffalo, the larger family unit or herd create an integral part to the dynamics of any individual. Here, interactions with your peers reveal the underlying notion of unity. A stronger animal will protect, and in the case of lions, suckle and nurture another's child. A buffalo herd will rally together to fend off an attack by a host of lionesses - even risking their own lives. The strength and bond of a group extends past individual egos, it ignores petty grievances in the face of common hardships and challenges. Not standing together could mean the downfall of the entire herd.
 

6. THE SPECIES

Without being physically aware of its connection to another of its species thousands of miles away, if two elephants cross paths on the plains of Africa, there is a mutual connection, understanding, language and respect that cannot be explained. Their commonalities go far deeper that how they physically appear to one another. And deeper still is the fact that if they were to cross paths in the distant future, there would be a sense of recognition. Now, under normal circumstances a male elephant would vehemently defend itself from intruders and be conscious of its 'personal space'. But a fellow elephant generates quite a different response (unless otherwise threatened). The survival of the species is understood and respected. How much respect and understanding do we bring to our relationship with those of our species? The rise or fall of the entire species.
 

7. THE PLANET

Now we enter the human realm. No animal, that I am aware of, has any concern for the survival of the planet. If we were to explain the situation to a pod of dolphins, I think that the word would quickly spread and a few fishing trawlers would be under threat. So let's assume that it's in our hands. If the planet goes, the species goes, the herd goes, the family goes, and bang! you go. Protecting and ensuring the survival of the planet isn't just the tree-hugger notion of 'SAVING THE PLANET'. It could mean protecting against outside threats (no not aliens) like meteors, solar flares etc. Saving the planet from man's affect on it, a noble cause, has its limits. In the blink of an eye, a huge volcano could erupt, sending ash into the atmosphere and blotting out the sun. The earth could shift on its axis and wipe out everything on its surface. Bad for us, not bad for the planet. As scientists have illustrated, the earth has gone through countless rejuvenation processes. All without the help (or destruction) of mankind. If we mess up the planet, the planet will simply start afresh. We are but an itch on the surface of a beautiful and resilient sphere hurtling through space. Sometimes we can only sit back and marvel at her. Other times we need to act.
 

8. THE UNIVERSE

The planet is where, at this stage of the game, our influence and survival abilities end. But as we reach out and touch other planets, it needs to be with the same respect and understanding as with crossing paths with one of our own. The fingerprints we leave behind can corrode or breathe life into aspects of the universe yet to be discovered.
 

If we are alive, have been given life, or brought back to life, it is our obligation to live it. Ending life, yours or another's, - other than for survival - goes against the natural order of things. A lion doesn't kill on a full stomach. There aren't thousands of buffalo carcasses lying rotting on the savannah, and a lion in Africa is not plotting the overthrow of a tiger in India.