I have settled on a few, weighty conclusions this heavy year, and one is that belief is a recurring choice. As a species, a nation, a community and as a family, we have been shown just how little control we exert on the world as it has pushed us back into our humble place of being at its mercy. I decided tonight, this darkened winter solstice as the earth teeters in the vastness of space, deciding if it will begin to tilt back towards the sun, to continue to believe.
Part of the delight of skating on ice this autumn, before the snow crept down the mountains to fill our valleys, is in the impossibility of water (which parts effortlessly for us when we hurl ourselves at it throughout the summer) to bear our weight. We take our electric drills out to test its thickness, seeing what state the frigid air has forced it into. Four inches is our personal safety requirement. Four mere inches, of frozen water and then we can fly.
Of course this can be explained in careful, scientific tones which for some, may take the awe away. Understanding how a ribbon four inches thick (beneath which shoot otherworldly songs from one end of the lake to the other) floating atop the darkness below can bear our weight–we who by balancing on narrow, metal blades soar–does not diminish my astonishment. In fact, it enhances my belief that wonder matters. Inquiry and gratitude matter.
This year, I choose to believe in the power of that wonder and gratitude to persist, despite what darkness we find ourselves submerged beneath. This world, which keeps up its relentless pirouette day after month after year, does not cease to flaunt its wonders whether we are noticing or not.
I believe we have so much yet to learn. The quote from Alice in Wonderland about believing “six impossible things before breakfast”, can be relegated to a child’s book and dismissed as such. Or we can admit that though we are whizzing through discoveries at a head spinning, heart pumping pace (in terms of how long our species has been clunking around here), we are yet barely scratching the surface.
We have to seek answers through scientific inquiry and by listening to the oral stories of the generations before us who knew this Mother Earth’s methods in ways we still too often fail to grasp. The truth we find today was often the impossible yesterday. For example, this year I have learned to believe in at least five impossible things: talking trees, a fungi internet, fish don’t exist, octopuses have souls and that gratitude persists, even with heart wrenching loss.
Above all, I choose to believe that interdependence is as important as independence. I have been thinking a lot about this since I read this Atlantic article a few weeks ago and have decided that although we believe so heavily in the importance of individuality, it is unfortunately, a lie. We are so interconnected and interdependent, that our individuality affects more than just us–we absolutely do not live in a vacuum. What we choose for ourselves and our families, creates the society that we live in.
What we believe, affects others. What kindnesses and selfishness we decide are right for us, affect others. And sorrow, hurt and division come because so many refuse to acknowledge that. When one person suffers in our community, our community suffers. When one is lost, it is a loss for all of us–a feeling I felt deeply when reading a piece in our local newspaper. Our lives matter. Whether we choose to not let a life be, or whether we choose to let some die so that we may live the way we want to, the loss of a life affects how our world is being shaped–who we will live with, learn from and love.
And so, since belief is a choice, I choose to start this year believing in interdependence, kindness, wonder and gratitude and the fact that my belief matters. I do not begrudge anyone the story they believe in, we cannot because we need this diversity of stories to sculpt life. Let’s just be sure the story that we follow leaves goodness in its wake. After all, we’re balancing on four inches of floating ice on a planet of talking trees careening through space that hopefully will obey the rules that dictate it will now lean back into the sun. And we need each other in order to thrive here.