Encompass

By

Accipiter G. Goshawk

Humankind is peculiar. Not necessarily special or superior, just different. As far as we know, we are the only beings that have developed reliable methods to peer into the past, untangle the laws of reality and understand the organic clockwork of life.

Of course, we don’t often take the time to think about all this.

Existence is complicated enough: work, family, friends, stress, fear, doubt, mindless distraction, food, anger, outrage, worry, Tuesdays, diets, workouts, the laundry…all these things capture our focus and blur the bigger picture.

So what happens when we have the time to take it all in?

A.G.G

A person waited at the bus stop.

They had been waiting for some time; the long hand on their watch had almost completed a revolution. Their smartphone was dead. They had nothing with them except their wallet, a light jacket and a yellow ticket stub.

They fiddled for a moment with the lifeless phone in their pocket. Finally, they sat down and stared at existence.

What started as an idle, bored contemplation of a well-known scenery soon became something else.

The mind wandered, thinking about the complex connections and forces twisting the atoms into the distant mountains. They that had been shaped into orderly minerals and rocks by the titanic forces of earth tectonics, erosion, sedimentation, glaciers and human activity. The same mountains cradled rivers born from crying, icy valleys that sent them speeding towards lakes and ultimately the sea.

Time stretched out in the person’s mind, making place for millions of years. The landscape twisted, becoming desert, then ocean, then rainforest, then desert again until settling on familiar valleys and peaks.

Their eyes roved to the forests and their thoughts travelled to leaves, pollen, bark and branches. A myriad of dancing systems, all contributing to a growing – living! – being.

They breathed in, letting their mind turn to the indispensable exchange between the unmoving photosynthesizers and themselves.

From woody skin, the voyage continued into the microscopic, as cells, proteins and carbohydrates spun in an endless tarantella.

More atoms and molecules flew by, arranging into a double-helix.

Time dilated again. Endless selections and variations followed one another; some fell away, lost forever except to memory and stone. At last the current incarnation presented itself, carrying the drive to give birth to the next generation of trees.

Evolution washed around the sitting commuter: beings followed one another in an antediluvian procession, changing shape as time unravelled, ultimately returning to the first organism.

Then the Earth fell away and the mind was drawn to a star, forge of the building blocks of life. Incredible heat and eons went into their tempering. Finally all was diffused into stardust, a small tribute to the initial Bang.

The bus pulled up.

“Ticket please?” the driver asked, barely noticing the person’s dreamy look.

Eternity took the place of a few seconds.

Even as their mind returned from its odyssey, it turned inward and peered wonderingly at the circumstances of their own existence.

Made up of components originally contained within the heart of a star, catapulted across the universe to become part of this small planet. Carefully passed from shape to shape throughout time, to come together in a spectacular combination of chance, evolution and love.

A body and mind unlike any other. The step between countless histories of survival, success and failure, and the stories yet to be told.

They thought about their parents, grandparents and ancestors, about their fortuitous encounters and the adventures that marked their lives. And then they thought of their children and grandchildren: the newest marvels.

They presented their ticket, treating the driver to a dazzling smile.

“Thank you,” she said, momentarily taken aback.

“Thank you,”they answered. The bus pulled away, leaving the scenery as it had always been.-

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