• Lijing Cobb

Glass half full

I'm staring at my water fountain. Water bubbles out of a long tube at the top, then cascades down three descending leaves, back to the basin to reunite with the rest of the water, part of which gets pumped back up the long chute to fall down again. Gravity defied over and over again because of modern ingenuity. The whole thing is effortless, so much so that it offers anyone who admires such effortlessness a sense of calm and serenity.

And then I'm reminded of a mythic story I read a long time ago, at a time when I was considering the career of an angry and cynical young woman, about Sisyphus, the dude who got punished by Zeus for lying. He was doomed to push a boulder up a hill, only for it to fall down again, and such a futile effort was to last for eternity.

And then there was Albert Camus, one the of three authors I expounded on in my doctoral dissertation, who wrote a neat little book called "The Myth of Sisyphus," where he rescued the poor little dude Sisy from an otherwise eternal doom by extracting a secret ingredient from the push-fall-push-fall-push-fall monotony. Camus thinks, and I believe him, that Sisy, while grunting and sweating and perhaps cursing the bigger dude Zeus (ok, this part is my add-on), at one point in his journey of bouldering up to the top, SMILES. And when he goes back down the hill to push the boulder up again, he's got a pep in his step and is, dare I say it, HAPPY!

I mean, clearly it is much more suitable for Sisy to feel the misery and pointlessness of his entire condemned life, with frustrated tears rolling down his cheeks, roaring his angry roars, throwing temper tantrums left and right, writhing in endless and excruciating pain of despair, plotting revenge against the bigger dude. Pitying himself when pity is useless too.

Yesterday I harvested my first microgreens from our fish tank water garden. I was excited to taste them as we prepared for a taco lunch. My 7yo refused to touch the greens. She was having a hard time reconciling the fact that the greens were standing tall in the water garden one minute, and in another minute, struck down in a little bowl about to be filled into taco shells.

"Wouldn't you be sad, mommy, if you were vegetables, and you knew that you were going to be eaten when you were growing up?" She asked.

"I would be sad," I answered, looking at her sad little face and feeling her compassion for the veggies, "if I grow up to feed you, but then you let me rot and throw me in the garbage instead."

"I would be very afraid to be a vegetable. I don't want to be eaten." She insisted.

"But what if vegetables want to be eaten? What if being eaten makes them happy? What if being eaten is not scary for them at all?" I suggested, and then went on to a lecture of how we are all just energies converting from one form to another, and ultimately we are all the same, blah blah blah. Eyes glazed over, heads turned away. I stopped.

The greens were delicious. I chowed them down in 4 tacos in an effort to fulfill their life's purpose. I hope that their happiness shined through my happiness and became palpable to my compassionate 7yo.

Life is not safe, and it's not meant to be safe.

Life is safe, and it's meant to be safe.

Either way we choose to express it, life remains life. We have a consciousness. We teach ourselves things to believe in and people to adore. We do some things with abandon and avoid other things like the plague (or Covid). We choose and plot, trying our best to push the rock to the top of the hill. Inevitably, the rock falls. As we walk down the hill to push our own rock up again, are we dragging our feet or walking down with a purpose? Are we blaming circumstances (there is always the bigger dude Zeus) or are we taking responsibilities (Sisy did lie)?

Sisyphus. If we squint our eyes just a bit, somewhere in there we see the words "is us."

If life is life, and I choose to assign meaning to it, then I choose thus:

I choose positive.

I choose happy.

I choose kindness.

I choose yes.

I choose courage.

I choose to look at the bare trees standing outside my window, majestic, peaceful, sure. I'm guessing that they are not yearning for their spring vibrance, summer abundance, and fall magnificence. By the looks of it they are definitely not weeping over their loss of appendages. They simply are, whether I choose to look at them or not. They don't put on their best outfit to gain an audience, and then take it off when they are alone. They insist on being the same.

And in that sameness came the four seasons. Time expresses through them effortlessly. Some of them live for hundreds of years, and they don't brag about it. Some of them are struck down in storms, and they don't cry over it. Some of them are breathtakingly beautiful, yet they remain humble and rooted. Some of them are plain and forgotten, but they breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen just the same.

My mom passed on in July of last year, thousands of miles from me, without a word. Like a tree struck by lightning, she fell without complaining. Like a tree that fell to the ground, she returned her breath and energy back to this earth. And now I can see her everywhere I look, whenever I choose to remember her.

And I choose to remember her.

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