What We Take for Granted

IMG_6297I lost the past week to pain. On the Fourth of July my lower back started to ache, and by the next day I could barely move. Typical movements such as bending to pet my dog or lowering myself into my car seat had me gasping in agony.

And sitting at my computer–my job?–forgettaboutit. As a result, I sunk into a low place. Maybe I was feeling sorry for myself. In fact, I was, but I was also grieving for my body. A friend recently told me that her chiropractor said that twenty years of sitting for work causes trauma to the back. I thought about that, wondering if I’d forevermore be a chronic pain sufferer. How would I get everything done? How would I keep myself from getting depressed if I couldn’t write or garden or pet my little dog easily?

I suppose I’d cope. Like we do, especially as we get older and get hit with new challenges that cause us to suffer, whether it’s the challenge of living on our own fresh out of college, or weathering a stormy marriage and divorce, or raising a child with a disability, or dealing with mental illness, or experiencing the gradual breakdown of our bodies as we hit middle age. (Please, let’s not get into dementia and Alzheimer’s–I’d like to stick my head in the sand when it comes to that!)

In my down mood I got to thinking about humans as one of millions of species on this planet–the biggest-brained species, but still a life form that evolved out of the primordial ooze like every other life form. I got to thinking that we’ve divorced ourselves so much from nature that we don’t consider ourselves part of nature anymore. Like we’re beyond it, somehow.

And maybe that’s where science ultimately wants to take us: beyond nature. To the point where we don’t age, where we live forever (or can be brought back), where we’re beyond the rules of the birth, life, death cycle.

Meanwhile, here we are expecting life to be somehow easier and more fair for us as humans. Funny how that’s not the way it works, isn’t it? We’re not exempt from what seems to me to be nature’s natural cruelty. By cruelty, I mean its indifference. An alligator grabs a wildebeest in Africa, another alligator grabs a boy in Florida — that’s nature at work. It doesn’t care what species the prey is. It doesn’t care that famine and drought kill off thousands of humans in Africa as well as wildebeest and other species.

All the stuff we can’t control (even though we like to think we can) like the economy and disease is subject to nature’s cruelty too. We can’t control each other, we can’t even control our own minds most of the time. And so, things happen that cause us to suffer, to face challenges, to go into survival mode.

Through our lifetimes, we’ll have to survive many things–loneliness, disease, tornadoes, bankruptcies–doesn’t matter. No one said survival was easy. It’s certainly not for the poor wildebeest. Why would it be for us?

Ah well. It’s nuts that my back goes out, and I start thinking about all of this. That’s just me–the contemplative sort. As for my back, muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories, and physical therapy, and I’ll be fine. But I have a feeling that my back will bother me sporadically from now on, reminding me that I’m not as in control as I think I am.

We take it for granted that we can control our lives. However, nature wouldn’t allow that, now would it?

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