(Warning approaching tangent!)
One of the main components of this transformation project is a cognizant, self-aware reconnection with nature and re-entry into an eco-system I can recognize. As I have previously stated, and will no doubt repeat like a mantra, living in the desert makes it difficult to feel like you are a part of nature, let alone a denizen of the planet Earth. The barren landscape coupled with the unnatural heat makes one feel as if he or she is a colonist on a distant planet much closer to the sun.
I have, however, been trying to find certain elements of everyday life to remind me that I am indeed an earthling and that nature, even in this stark setting, is still part of mother Nature’s script. I notice small birds bathing in the sand outside my window, shrubs and weeds along the side of the road, but ironically the two bodies that have connected me the most significantly with the earth here in Doha are the moon and the sun.
When I go to cross that riverI am sure everybody has a certain novel appreciation for the sun. A basic grasp of photosynthesis should be enough to convert any person into a sun worshiper, and if elementary level science is not enough, any one who has spent anytime outside on a hot sunny day can appreciate that the sun is not only the source of all life on earth, but a beautiful deity in her own right. Without her energy no life on earth would exist. I find it strange that millions of people devote their faith to a god no one has ever seen, but the most people take the very source of all life on our planet for granted.
She is a comfort by my side
When I try to understand
She just opens up her hands
There’s a big
A big hard sun
Beating in the people
In a big hard worldEddie Vedder
My casual understanding of the sun was dramatically altered after reading The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. (all quotes in this post are from this text.) Since finishing the book, I have come to better understand the true magic of our nearest star. Since this new discovery, I can now see that the sun is not merely a part of our eco-system here on earth, it is the root of every food chain on earth. It is the source of all energy. It is wrong to think that only solar energy comes from the sun.
At their most basic, fossil fuels are nothing more than ancient sunlight stored in decaying animal and plant life. Oil is an organic battery hoarding energy from the light that hit the face of the earth millions of years ago.
Almost all of Pangea was covered with a dense mat of vegetation, rising hundreds of feet into the air, creating a think ground of cover rotting and dead plant matter that became, in some places, hundreds or even thousands of feet deep. The mats of living and dead vegetation became thicker and thicker as this phase continued for over 70 million years.This mat of rotted organic matter is the very oil that fuels are cars, electricity plants, tanks, war planes, processed foods, children’s toys, you name it- this ancient stored sunlight energizes our entire modern industrial society. The problem is that the earth was designed to operate using current sunlight energy only.
The planet’s human population grew beyond the level that the Earth could sustain if humans were using only local “current sunlight” as an energy and food source.To put it simply, we are using energy that is not sustainable. The sun produces only so much energy, this amount of energy is enough to sustain a functioning population of Earth inhabitants, but humans have tapped into a hidden source of ancient sunlight, thus growing our population exponentially, and throwing the balance out of order. We now have a population dependent on more energy than the sun can produce, so when our credit runs out, the sun will not be able to produce enough energy to sustain the population we have created.
I didn’t mean to go on that rant, for more detailed explanation of these lessons please read the book. I just brought up the sun, because I wanted to illustrate why I have become so uber-aware of its role in my life. Nothing is more effective to show a person the power and worth of the sun, then feeling it on your skin in the Arabian desert. There is also something about the longitude and latitude of this region and the amount of sand in the air that makes for spectacular sunsets, and from what I realized today sunrises as well.
Today was the first day I woke up at 5:30. I made myself a cup of tea. (I really need to not buy tea in tea bags anymore. The waste of each bag seems ridiculous. Loose-leaf tea will eliminate so much unneeded waste.)
I hit the elliptical machine and felt my thighs ache from non-use. Onto push-ups/sit-ups and a short stint of Zazen. It was the easiest ten-minute session I have ever had. I could feel my heart beating, tiny globules of sweat danced on my skin; I mediated on a spec of dust in my field of vision. It stayed in place when I was done. Then I floated away to work and it too was gone upon my return.
Another day another chance to get it right
Must I still be learning?
Must I still be learning?