Saddle Sore: Pondering life
From out of the primordial ooze we came, with nothing but soup for ancestors. Or if you prefer to believe a more modern hypothesis, maybe we were generated by geochemical gradients across a honeycomb of microscopic natural caverns at hydrothermal vents. Huh? Energy was the catalyst needed to self-invent ourselves out of the rising steam, water, dirt and mud that arose from the depths. In its most simplified version, this theory claims that chemiosmosis, a process that drives the synthesis of the universal energy currency, made all life possible. OK.
After all the scientific gobbledygook of that first paragraph, it might be refreshing to think that the ball of energy that started it all came from a star, a shining light, maybe like our sun. Perhaps we’re not the result of some boiling exudation of hissing steam spewing out of microscopic vents, hanging on to the barest thread of energy, but rather the result of electrical energy emanating from a shooting star that, like a lightning bolt, drilled its energy down into the very guts of the ooze, serendipitously giving it a cohesiveness and vitality it otherwise may have never known.
For a world that does not believe in infinity, that insists everything must have a beginning and an end, we certainly have no qualms about guessing how long it may have taken for that entire first paragraph to come together, but it roughly numbers in the millions of years, just for the first sign of life, such as a single cell. Throw in a few more million — or maybe billion — for the development of Homo sapiens, and somewhere in the back of my mind, I have to believe that all those millions and billions of years haven’t left Mother Earth with much more to give.
“What does it matter?” you say. Think about the randomness of how life developed — maybe it was a total accident — and then think about where you are at this very minute. We’re rather spoiled in this rarefied air of clean mountain living. That we readily admit, but are we who we want to be or should be? Have we looked inward far enough to reason that we are being true to ourselves, or are we just playing along with the game, getting by in an unfocused path of least resistance while we spin furiously for more miles on the bike or wish for more powder days on the mountain? Are we missing a deeper reality?
Would we have met, you and I, if we had chosen different paths for our lives? Was it destiny or fate that brought us together, a scenario over which we had no choice? Or did we fall from different parts of the same star and, in the million points of sparkling light shooting in all directions, haphazardly find each other’s aura? I look into your eyes and see brightness and light, and your return gaze ignites the energy between us, creating a magic that is inexplicable.
The miracle of life is not about how it all started but how we perceive ourselves within the thread of life. Look into a loved one’s eyes, or nestle your face in his or her neck, and tell me that the reality isn’t much closer to a shining star than a quagmire of weirdly seasoned ooze. It’s graceful, it’s clear, and it just feels good. We like it, our loved ones like it, and without getting anthropomorphic about it, we can genuinely tell that our dogs, our horses, our cats and other creatures react the same way.
There are a lot of questions to ponder, and in the end we’ll likely have to admit that we may never really know the answers. But on some level, even without dazzling scientific solutions, there has to be a philosophical understanding that takes place within, an indulgence of sorts that puts some order and sense into our daily lives.
The other morning while saddling my horse, marveling at the coloring of his blue roan hair and his totally distinctive smell of horse, I remembered what my friend Stan Boothe told me many years ago: “If you think you want to be a rancher, you’d better be tough enough to shoot 3 feet of lightning out your ass.” And that clinched it for me. We wouldn’t be here if not for the catalyst of an auspicious bolt of energy from the sky.
Tony Vagneur writes on Saturdays and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Some firsts are very memorable, others are more fleeting and forgettable.