Reawakening Totemic Awareness

Consider for a moment that all life has the capacity for some degree of awareness, and all are driven by a will to life and have the means to defend this, and as such, nothing offers itself willingly. Does this alter your view of any of the foods at your table? The notion that we can at once revere and honor animals as they take a place on our plates may, for some folks, rustle up a dissonance that threatens to blow the mind in two. Yet, embracing the death within our food is the very means of honoring the life that feeds us, as living inevitably takes life, directly and on the periphery, and the severity of this truth is not broken by choosing one dietary road over another. The fire that animates our individual lives is shared through eating — “mutual insparkedness” as the Mayan say. Life feasts and is feasted upon. There is no either-or, only this and that. Such paradoxes, the tension between apparent opposites, are woven into Life. It is that pushing and pulling that creates our reality. It seems our kind once held a deep awareness of this, having not yet elevated themselves above their earthly origins, allowing them to gracefully approach Life on its terms, neither romanticizing nor demonizing the circumstances of their existence, and this included the reality that they had to kill in order to eat. Yet, their thoughtfulness and respect in light of this is evident in what their cultures left behind. Though the meaning and purpose of the ancient artwork that adorns the caves of modern Europe is mere speculation on our part, the artists clearly admired their four-legged muses. They inevitably hunted the subject of their admiration as well, though we can presume that they ate with gratitude and accepted this food as the gift that it is. The modern world has largely failed on this last count, viewing the life that feeds us as mere commodity, an entitlement, which in turn has sparked the sentimentalist notion that death can be completely severed from life and one can eat without the former.

“The knowledge that every animal, plant, [and] person … is indebted to the fruit of everything else is an adult knowledge. To get out of debt means you don’t want to be a part of life, and you don’t want to grow into an adult,” is the elder wisdom quoted by Martín Prechtel in his book Long Life, Honey in the Heart. Only in a culture built on a foundation of forgetting, isolated from its beginnings and split into dualities could such black and white thinking that now exists arise, content in its childishness, as it were. It is ill-acknowledged that we are all existing in the same sacred space, that we all share the general essence of Life, and that while individual sparks may extinguish, the fire continues burning. Any living thing that is free to indulge in the wide, wild spaces of its full character, without restraints, does not die in vain, and when we deepen, as well as broaden, our view, we see that there are no true endings, only transitions. One form moves into another: the sun into vegetation, vegetation into beasts, beasts into us, and, inevitably, us into soil. Revolving existence, life lived in multitudes through unbroken change and transformation. What could be more beautiful?

The Joy of a Flat Tire

Thrice in my life as a driver I have had to change a flat, and in two of those instances I was already in the midst of a hot-headed moment, but rather than compounding the anger and compelling me to wield the tire iron as a weapon, it deflated it and pulled me out of that cloud of self-absorption. Calamity can be extremely self-revelatory, a perfect opportunity for realizing our capabilities by throwing us dead center into the whirring present, a place many of us rarely reside in any given moment, and all the better when we have no choice but to act. If you can remain open and receptive in such times, your resiliency may surprise you.

Nietzsche emphasized the concept of amor fati, or “love of fate,” as a means to greatness. This love is not so much a matter of rolling over and allowing Life to rub your face in the dirt, a weak complacency of an abusee. It’s a light-hearted embracing that enables you to move through and beyond whatever you’re confronted with. When you turn your burdens into enemies, they become walls, and not only do you suffer the pain of the initial event, but that of banging your head in torment over your “bad fortune,” and the indignity that follows, as well. It’s in these particular moments that we become our own worst punishers, because we alone are responsible for our emotions, including the ones that wind us into a positive feedback loop of misery. Rather than true victims of circumstance robbed of control, it is often an unfortunate example of an individual with a total loss of perspective and a deflated will. When you take these heavy moments by the hand, make their acquaintance, and go down deep, all the way through their respective levels of Hell with them, you are refined that much more, revealing a brilliant new layer of yourself.