It bears remembering that we are just haunted atoms. Or more biologically, small mammals with programmed instincts. I used to find this thought disturbing. Now it seems more comforting. How can we expect to do all and be all and fix all and understand all the things? We have an imperative to try, to some extent, I guess, but really our above-average “intelligence” seems to be a curse more often than not. Our atoms are haunted but they are atoms nonetheless, atoms that are part of an interconnected system in which we play a largely prescribed part.
I’ve talked before about souls as birds. That bird is meant to exist in a world very specifically between ground and lower troposphere, encountering trees and eggs and rivals. This all makes sense. If that bird were to be flung into space (assuming it could survive), with no parameters and only emptiness punctuated by mammoth explosions, no one would expect it to do anything but freak out, bird-style.
I think my bird spends too much time in space, reeling around. And the only response it can think of is to go back to what makes sense – its nest, I guess, or any small bounded enclosure that makes sense. I find myself careening between space and nest, space and nest. I almost forget what it means to be in the trees. We try to be a hell of a bird, striving over and over again, Hadestown-style. Eurydice in that show is also referred to as a bird.
Maybe that’s why breathing helps us when we are out of control. The in and out and processing of air reminds us of our cyclical place here, either as symbolic birds or as mammals meant to be right here. The vastness of space, of pain, of everything, is undoubtedly there. But to be in it we must play our part in it, and I think that’s to find your tree and set out from it as best you can.