“If tears could build a stairway,
And memories a lane,
I’d climb right up to heaven
And bring you home again.”
In the detached and confident world of Biology and Science the quintessence that we call “Life” is a many structured and defined thing. Like itinerant craftsmen through the ages, legions of relentless scientists have brick upon brick, fact upon fact crafted a sanctuary of meaning and identity meticulously circumscribing the essence of life in a secure web of cells, tissues and organisms. In a careful colossus of covalent bonds, ATP, organelles, metabolism, DNA, genomes and a myriad, interwoven sanctum of functions, terminology and definition they have courageously secured a bastion of law and order that all of us stand upon to navigate through the dark chaos of unknown.
And for the most part, seen in the proper and reverent light, that logical sanctuary is airtight, valid and impregnable. It works. It comforts us and keeps us all safe and sheltered from the storm. But when the life within us falters and fails. When we are forced to helplessly sit and watch it slip away from those desperately dear and priceless to us… that magnificent and colossal sanctuary becomes useless and cannot save us from the desolate emptiness that will not be comforted with any fact, law or logic. The shadows fall away and we see that magnificent, brilliant palace of science and genius for what it is…at last. It is the best we can do. It is the accumulated excellence of the finest, the very finest the human mind can create. But it is not enough. When face to face with the stark eternity of death and the mystery of life itself…it all becomes a charade. An illusion that cannot capture and hold the secret majesty of the quintessence of life. And all those facts, laws and precise scientific universal truths become like lifeless garments, abandoned trinkets and forlorn things left behind. Empty. Deserted. No longer raging. No longer wild. No longer alive. And we wonder in lost confusion, unable to digest the dark mystery of what we once knew, felt and touched and finally lost…never ever truly understanding what it really was.
What is life? We truly do not know. We live its intense, all consuming and overwhelming majesty. We try desperately to tie it down, structure and capture it. But it will not stand and stay. Always it flows and rages. Always it runs away. “Too strong to hold, too sweet to lose.”
Through the ages in the saga of science and intellect, in the stray ideas of thinkers like Heraclitus, or Soviet dialecticians you hear mentioned the idea of life as being a “river.” That our bodies flow “like rivulets” with the material within us constantly renewed “like water in a stream.” That organisms are simply forms and structures holding a flowing “organic” fulmination temporarily within. That everything is part of an “organic unity of reality”, an indissociable “unity of opposites” that cannot ever be fully explained in “physicochemical terms.”
When we lose someone precious and irreplaceable, it is the shattering revelation that we truly do not know what life really is that derails and destroys us. That our loved ones are forever lost because we never truly understood what that precious essence of life really is. That not only have they eternally disappeared into the unknown, we never knew what the precious life within them really meant. We just do not know.
In spite of all the convoluted structure and law, there is only one thing we only truly know about life. Everything else is conjecture, illusion and mystery. It flows and consumes us in an intense, raging riotous torrent. But we have yet to truly understand what it means. And we are left with only the singular, primitive knowledge that it begins and ends. This we know. This we have learned, in devastating pain, anguish and sorrow. It ends. It is temporary. In our human world and primitive reality, life is somehow bounded by solitary, isolated dimension and separate, impenetrable discreteness. That discreteness composes the saga, story and definition of our reality and our existence. We see everything through that primary window of aching and isolated discreteness. It is a primitive state. And it hurts. It is why we live in such pain, agony and unbearable grief when those we love slip away and die. And there is nothing we can do for that aching, inconsolable loss. Not yet. When we finally find out what life and universe really mean…those precious loved ones will no longer disappear into that bleak, barren shattering empty darkness. We will no longer have to find a way to suffer through in ignorant silence without them. We will no longer have to say goodbye forever.
©2010 J. L. Anderson