Monday, February 27, 2012

The Breath of Life

I don't know whether you feel as I do, that our world is becoming more and more fragmented. More and more views are being expressed, more and more uprisings fight for the headlines, more and more uncertainty takes hold. Then along comes a statement, a simple statement, that puts everything into perspective.

I heard such a statement the other day.
It did me a world of good . . . may I share it with you?

What was gently pointed out to me was the simple fact that we all breathe together. Plants, fish, birds and mammals, together we comprise a planetary, breathing organism. Our thoughts may differ, but every time we breathe in and out we are at one with the living, breathing world around us. The same air, the same mysterious, life-giving air moves through our bodies.

Not only that, as there is nothing new under the sun, you and I are inhaling the same air that filled the lungs of Tutankhamun and the Pilgrim Fathers. The same air that fired both St. George and the Dragon.
Nor is that all, just think about it for a moment . . . the carbon dioxide we are exhaling, the carbon dioxide which is giving life to the plants in our parks and gardens, is, atom for atom, the same gas that was absorbed by the first primeval forests.

Why should the strange substance that we call oxygen sustain an equally mysterious state that we call life? It is not a question we often ask. Breathing is an instinctive bodily function that operates on its own, we forget that it's happening. We also ignore the vital fact that the air itself needs to be sufficiently pure if we are to survive. We inhale and exhale without thinking. Only occasionally, when caught in a dust-storm, fog, or very heavy traffic, do we question what might be going into our bodies.

Nor do we often make a connection between the oxygen we are breathing in and the oxygen that the plants around us are breathing out. The countryside doesn't merely provide us with food, it is also the source of the oxygen needed for our lungs and heart to operate. We talk about the rain-forests as being an all-important absorbent of our carbon-dioxide emissions, yet rarely consider that they are equally vital if the oxygen breathing species on our planet are to continue breathing.

During Climate Week we'll be giving our attention to ways in which we can reduce the weight of man's footprint on the earth. We'll be thinking about sustainability, green sources of energy, water purity, and the means used to produce our food.
But don't let's forget that, after its birth, a baby's first reaction to the strange, new world in which it finds itself is not to eat, but to breathe.

What set these thoughts in motion? It was, if you remember, the statement, 'We all breathe together'.

May I make a suggestion? Let's pause for a moment and, jointly and consciously, take a deep breath.
As the air fills our lungs, we'll make a pledge . . . a pledge that, from now on, we'll do everything in our power to maintain the purity of the mysterious breath of life that unites us.

After all . . . we can't live without it.