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What a Piece of Work

Last week Travis and I visited the NM Natural History Museum to see the special Leonardo da Vinci exhibit.  Before Leonardo, we popped in to the Planetarium to see a presentation — it was called “From Earth to the Universe,” and it did try to cover that entire distance.  Then we went on to see da Vinci.  The two shows were each great on their own.  Together, they made for a mind-blowing afternoon.

First, in the Planetarium, my understanding of space and time was pretty much totally obliterated.  Space expanded from this local blue marble globe we live on into something greater than inter-galactic, to a universe so darned big that the very concept of space and scale becomes almost meaningless. And time — forget about time!  With telescopes looking back over light years to see supernovae that exploded billions of years ago, to be able to basically witness the birth of our own Milky Way… I can’t get my mind around it; what does time even mean when what we view in our own night sky happened aeons ago? 

So we staggered out of that into the middle of the exhibit about Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions.  From the broadest imaginable overview of the universe, the unimaginable unfathomable infinitude of It All, we suddenly zoomed-in on the brilliance of one human mind. 

Da Vinci designed and invented practically everything on land and sea and air, studied and recorded anatomy like never before, did a little costume design on the side, and painted some masterpieces along the way.  Dude didn’t stop!   Somehow, he managed expertise in philosophy, physics, engineering, religion, art, military strategy, and every science — all informing each other rather than invalidating each other.  (Which was remarkable 500 years ago, and even more impressive when I notice that nowadays it seems hard for some people to both love the Bible and accept that the Earth is round at the same time.)

All in all, I was overwhelmed by the magnificence of it all — the vast universe and the fact that we’ve learned so much about it; the splendor of the human mind and the incredible potential that each individual embodies… 

And then I found myself despairing that even with such capacity for greatness, we still haven’t figured out how to not destroy each other, our environment, and ourselves.  What the hell is wrong with us?  I got upset.

My first impulse, usually, when I feel anxious or upset about something is to get busy — get to work.  If we’ve got a question, I’ll research it and try to figure out the answer.  If there’s a problem, I’ll work my tail off to try to craft a solution.  If the problem is with us, I’ll work on our relationship.  If the problem is with me, I’ll work on myself.  And because — individually and collectively — it seems to me that we’ve got a lot of questions and a lot of problems, this usually means that I’ve got a lot of work to do.  Hard work.  Heck, if da Vinci could do it, then so can I!

But what I’m wondering now is:  what if working harder isn’t always the thing?   

Maybe human life doesn’t have to feel like a race against a doomsday clock.  In fact, time appears to be fairly bendy.  So what if we’ve truly got all the time in the world? 

Maybe life doesn’t even have to be hard.  We’re parts of the whole shebang, the whole Big Bang.  So what if we remembered that no matter what we’ve got the support of this entire blooming Universe to co-create it, to co-create ourselves?

Of course, if we want to actualize particular things in our lives and in the world, then we need to be willing to commit time and energy, to invest ourselves, to take action when it’s needed — this is all part of the business of living.  But also part of our work, probably the most essential part, is simply to be fully ourselves.  And this is a job in which we need to give ourselves a break, with space to grow and with time to be. 

What if we approached these good lives not as a rigged system of sometimes-earned reward for back-breaking suffering and labor, but rather as the gift with which we’re born — already the result of 3.5 billion years of evolution?  I’m imagining what might be available if we recognized that we’re already masterpieces, masterworks, each and every one of us.   What a piece of work, indeed.

I can’t wait to be with you, friends.  XO, Drew

© 2018 Drew Groves

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