“One night I had a dream. I was walking in the street like a kid who has the hands of the father and mother, someone bigger guiding you. And I was asking this big person, “What is the meaning of life?“ He showed me circles, circles of life, and then he showed me a flower.
A plant has a circle. A seed becomes a plant that has a flower, transforms into a fruit. The fruit drops. There’s another seed, it grows again, this is another circle. I see and understand, but why do you show me the flower?
The flower is the moment that we live.
The most beautiful moment of the circle.
The most beautiful moment.
- Alex Atala
The literal reality is that I am going to die.
I am going to die in the future, and all the issues and problems that fill my head today and tomorrow will mean almost nothing in the vast scheme of it all, in the exact same way that the concerns that I had 20 years ago have no relevance to me now.
Humans are amazing. Life is amazing.
Somehow, in the face of insurmountable struggles and concerns, in the face of cancer and suicide and addiction and murder, we humans go on with our lives every single fucking day, overcoming obstacles over and over again, growing wiser, growing stronger, growing harder and softer.
Each one of us makes our way through events that should overwhelm us, break us into pieces, rip out our souls, punch us in the testicles, and we become more resilient because of them. We become more amazing because of the shit that we go through.
That is why you are so beautiful. You don’t know that, do you? You think you are ugly, or cowardly, or defensive, or weak. You think that you are marred in some essential way, that unlike everybody else you are doomed to a life of pessimism, depression, failure, regret.
You are not alone.
We all feel like that sometimes. We all share the same experiences, feelings, the highs and lows, the ups and downs, in different ways. We are all unique circles, but we are all circles nonetheless.
Through the shit we wade.
We are beaten down, broken, crushed, and destroyed. We are jury-rigged, duct-tapped, patched, and repaired. We are marred, we are scarred, and we are unique.
There is no reason to be ashamed of any of this. This is the process of life and death.
The beauty in life is not about perfection, it is about imperfection and the passage of time.
At a certain point in our lives, if we are paying attention we realize that it will all end at some point in the near future.
That point happened to me when I was a young boy laying in bed at night.
I realized that my parents were definitely going to die in the future, and that thought filled me with a cold dread that I had never felt before.
I realized that I too would bite the dust. Before that realization, I had felt immortal. Afterwards, the cold hard reality of my predicament was clear to me.
I was going to lose the ones I loves and then myself.
The main reason that I felt the icy hands of death so vividly was because I had recently given up my belief in religion.
Religion comforts us when death hits us square in the chest. If we set aside that spiritual bulletproof vest, what remains is only the naked reality of the finality of the death experience.
If we accept the reality that our lives will end, that in the future we won’t exist in the same way that we do today, then we have to live like we mean it now. There are no heavenly (or hellish) rewards or punishments in the afterlife.
There is no life after the one we have; each animal, each plant, each drop of water has a life cycle that started at one point in the past and will end in the future.
Religion espouses a linear reality, one in which we get to live the same life we live now forever.
In nature, nothing is linear, everything is cyclical, everything is a circle.
When we die, when our animal bodies disassemble and decompose, a million organisms begin to eat it. Bacteria, fungi, worms, and fly larvae all feast on a newly rotting corpse.
We have created a negative view of this whole event in part because of our visceral reaction to an intense process that will some day claim our own bodies.
But what if, instead of wallowing in fear and denial, we celebrated it and examined it, only to find that it is beautiful in its own morbid way.
We are born through no choice of our own, and die by the hands of fate.
We are taught to look backward with regret, atone for our sins in the present, and look forward with fear.
This is a recipe for a disastrous life — much better to be gentle with the past, work on the present, and look forward to the future, with the full realization and acceptance of the concept that each one of our lives is a unique circle.
Looking into the night sky, we find the rings of a tree or the reflection of an eye. The circular nature of life and death is sacred, and we negate that reality when we attempt to straighten it out into a line with religious ideas and beliefs.
At first I thought life was an endless line that stretched off into infinity. This is what religion taught me.
When I let go of my religious beliefs, life appeared to be a sad, short line, book-ended by birth and death and characterized by suffering.
But now I can see that all the lives in the universe are interconnected circles, that life is not characterized by suffering, but by change. Regeneration is the key to the life and death circle.
Yesterday you were a seed, today you are a flower, and tomorrow you will be food for the earth.