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Precious Humanity

“Precious it is to be born, more precious still it is to be born human.” So goes the Buddhist adage. We humans are the only creatures on the planet blessed with the capacity to engage this world in the complex and meaningful ways we do. Our appreciation of a flower or a sunset, the deep, dramatic love of one another, our self pity, misery and all of our unbounded joy are worlds only we get to explore; the exclusive provenance of our precious human consciousness. It is a miracle, and a miracle too often taken for granted. Our lives are made of precious days and even more precious moments: smelling a flower, enjoying a delicious piece of fruit, swimming in sunshine, the beauty of making love. Tigers and salmon and condors sense and respond but they do not have the privilege of reflecting and engaging their environment in the precious ways we can. Animals sense and respond, but cannot reflect on the beauty and wonder of it all. This is our greatest gift and our glory as humans.

But our capacity for beatific reflection is matched only by our ability to fall into despair. I am recently homeless. I am hungry and bitten by pests. I am not fully in control of my environment and I worry about my future. Yet I can choose at any moment to stop, breathe and see the beauty that surrounds me: The glint of sunshine on the water’s edge, a reed bowing to the breeze, the bright flash of a fish in the water, the sound of laughter and the beautiful smell of the turning season, the sweet memory of a love beyond all imagining. This moment will never be again. How shall I make it? Precious moments make for precious days and precious days quickly become precious lifetimes. Be mindful of these moments for they are the letters that make up the words and the sentences and paragraphs that write the story of our lives. Live, love and laugh like there is no tomorrow, because there isn’t. There is only this moment and love in this moment will stretch and expand it, opening it to all the beauty and wonder it can hold.

Look around you and find the joyful thing. It is right where you are.