It’s All So Fragile

I just read something very exciting on the National Geographic website. It seems that the Mayan city of Tikal and its environs in Guatemala were much, much, MUCH larger than we previously thought. All this time, we were thinking the area was home to about 5 million people during the Maya classic period between 250 and 900 AD, when in fact it was more likely that this civilization’s population was about 10-15 million. That’s much more densely populated than medieval England was.

How did we reach this conclusion? Scholars used LiDAR, which is a sort of penetrating radar that can look through the vegetation to see previously undiscovered structures. (Check out the photos in that NatGeo article. They’re really quite fascinating.) They were able to find the ruins of more than 60,000 houses, palaces, and elevated highways.

Holy cow, talk about a booming metropolis. To put that in context, cities about that size today include Bangkok, Thailand; Los Angeles, USA; Cairo, Egypt; Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. Clearly there was a lot more going on in the Tikal area than we previously imagined.

And how exciting for archeologists! It will take decades to sort through all this LiDAR data, and even longer to clear the growth off the buildings of interest. This is quite a breakthrough. We have so much more to learn about this ancient culture! There are some pyramids in there that are 7 stories high that you can’t see even when you are standing right in front of them. Now, they just look like jungle-y hills, lost in the underbrush.

That, to me, is mind-blowing. Imagine. If we abandoned Los Angeles for a thousand years, it would be so overgrown that no one would even know it was there!

That’s sobering. I mean, we walk around thinking that we are living in the realm of permanence, that we’ve made our mark and staked our claim on the earth, that our skyscrapers will last forever. In fact, from a cosmic perspective, all this stuff is fleeting. It’s here, but not for long. Not really. Someday it will be unrecognizable. The dry cleaner’s across the street will not even be there in 50 years, let alone 500 years. This moment in time won’t  be remembered, eventually.

It’s all so fragile. That makes the now seem all the more precious. I don’t know about you, but it has me looking at things with fresh eyes. Who wants to go to Tikal with me?

Tikal

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Time Passes

Here’s why I could never commit suicide: I know, for better or for worse, that I am not stuck in this present moment. Things will get better. Yeah, they might also get worse. But the point is, it’s all unbelievably temporary. Change is inevitable.

The reason I’ve been able to endure all this home buying and relocation stress is that I was able to keep telling myself that this time next month, then next week, then tomorrow…I’d be done with all of that. And sure enough, I am. Now it’s time to focus on unpacking stress. And while that sucks, too, at least I know everything is here. Somewhere. In some box or another. I forget where. But it’s here. Really. It is. It has to be.

The more life you live, the more you realize that the pendulum swings back and forth. If you don’t like the point in the arc that you are currently experiencing, just wait. You’ll be gone from there in no time.

That knowledge also makes me value the now. It feels all the more precious because it’s going to be gone in a flash. Sometimes I feel the need to stop dead in my tracks and just take everything in. Breathe the air. Feel the sun on my face. Watch and listen to everything that’s happening around me.

Every moment is as unique and fragile as a snowflake. Personally, I want to stick around for as long as I can, because the snowflakes of life are infinitely fascinating to me. It would be a shame to miss even one of them.

snowflake

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Things I Hope I Never Forget

The shock of having the person I loved most in the world die unexpectedly two weeks ago has taught me much.

  • Life is as fragile as a soap bubble. It could pop at any moment and that’s it. You’re done.
  • Because life is so fragile, it’s precious. You only get a little bit of it, so savor every single second.
  • Because it’s so precious, it is absurd to waste your time worrying about the little things over which you have absolutely no control.
  • Everything is a little thing, except for the people you love and the people who love you. Nothing else matters.
  • Nothing. Else. Matters.

I vaguely remember learning these same lessons when my mother died 23 years ago, but somewhere along the way I got caught back up in the minutiae of life and forgot these things. I hope I never do again. They’re important. They are the only things that really are important.

Once you start viewing life through this particular lens, all the petty crap and drama tends to fall by the wayside and things become really simple. Don’t take the people you love for granted. Appreciate everything and everyone that comes your way. But most of all, stop wasting time.

Live!

Live

[Image credit: marian16rox.tumblr.com]