I came to understand the real grace by which we live the other day. It’s nothing extra-terrestrial. That is to say that it’s not above us, invisible in the sky. Nor does it exist in some hero that we’ve created to fill an immature need for a leader. Really and truly, the grace by which we live is more tenuous, more real, and more meaningful than we have given thought to. And we have the universe to thank for it….
The real grace by which we live lies in the fact that nature and evolution managed to produce us at all.
Since we’ve come to know evolution in more intimate terms, thanks to developments such as the electron microscope and the doggedness of many scientists, there’s one thing we’ve learned: if we were to wind the clock back and start the evolution process of earth all over, there’s no guarantee that we humans, as homo sapiens, would emerge. The turns and twists that accompany the process at any one time could theoretically lead to some other sorts of life, and perhaps without any dent of awareness whatsoever. Yet, here we are.
Can you see it? Do you understand what this means? Millions of years of fine-tuning, millions of years of trying out this or that physical characteristic, millions of years of other species that have come and gone, millions of years of change, millions of years of challenges from climate variations to illness inducing bacteria…and we manage to adapt enough to come out on top, superior to every animal and with the bonus and enormous ability to manipulate our surroundings to suit our lifestyles…… THIS is the grace by which we live.
And when we stop for a second, right now, to consider that out of billions of years’ worth of time extant, we humans have the opportunity to LIVE and be aware and enjoy the benefits of nature, then we really get an idea of the grace we have as such infinitesimally small bits of matter in the whole of the universe. Our time here is no longer than the seasonal cycle of a leaf upon a poplar tree. We are here in one blink of the universal eye and then gone the very next. A very short time indeed, but the grace by which we live at least allows us a moment in the annals of the cosmos.
So then, what of it? What of this brief life we live and the grace by which it comes?
One of my favorite professors used to tell her classes that “we were the elite, one of the few that are educated, we have a certain level of accountability to society as a whole because of it.” I took that to heart and would even apply the same stance to our short time on earth: WE of all creatures , having awareness and consciousness, have a certain level of accountability to one another, to our fellow creatures, and to our mother earth. With the grace of life given to us, we also have a responsibility to live that life as best we possibly can.
We are, thanks to the gracious movements of evolution, a very gifted animal. We have, thanks to the graciousness of the universe, a brief moment to enjoy our awareness. This is the grace by which we live – tenuous, real, and more meaningful than we might have thought. Let’s make it count for something shall we?
authors note: this article was inspired by the song ‘sirens’, pearl jam, off of their most recent album, lightening bolt.