(First written 8/31/06)
In the dusk of yesterday’s evening I walked to the mouth of the nearby Siuslaw River to see what birds were about. On a log inside a floating dock I saw some 500 (mostly Western with a few Least) Sandpipers huddling together, shifting position, zipping on and off, while preparing to roost for the night. These teeny birds – some for the first time – are migrating south from breeding grounds in the northern tundra. Each one is special, I thought, no less than you or me.
We humans must consciously or unconsciously come to terms with the essential facts of our existence. These are scary things to face: (1) we are going to die; (2) we do not control our world; (3) we live and die alone; and (4) the universe is indifferent to us. It seems that there are two ways that individuals deal with these anxieties of existence.
- Because I am special, these facts don’t apply to me.
- There is someone out there (another human, or a mythical figure) who will save me.
Irvin Yalom said: “Wisdom does not lead to madness, nor denial to sanity. The confrontation with the givens of existence is painful but ultimately healing.” This confrontation, it seems to me, is the true work facing each of us. And it is healing work: if we don’t do it we must use up psychic energy to keep the lid on Pandora’s box.