I don’t finish all the books I start, but my kindle tells me what % I’ve reached, eventually flagging “read” if and when I reach 100%.
Many things in life get metered in this way. But this morning I realized that with the most important things in life every day is a new beginning.
Life itself doesn’t come with a “% currently reached”, even though one day an “all read” flag will be raised over our memory, whether or not we have finished telling our story.
I remember in some college class I took encountering a definition of integer numbers, one aspect being that there was no end to them. You could count forever and never count 100% of them, because wherever you reached, there was always another one uncounted.
But that’s the numbers themselves, not the things we might care to count with them, for which there is not always one more. The capacity of the living ocean to absorb one more unconsumed consumable is not infinite; nor is the capacity of the Earth to keep cycling clean water through oceans, clouds and streams. Like the number of days that will one day prove to be all we have been allotted, the lifespan of a healthy planet is also wearing away day by day.
Our society has become so complex that even good intentions can go awry.
On our morning walks, I’ve been noticing some of the majestic Ponderosa Pines on our street beginning to look brown at the tips of their once glistening needles—now no longer proud examples of the title “evergreen” earned by their kind in the snowy forests of yesteryear.
I think of how some years ago many good-citizen home owners in Albuquerque converted their front yards to “southwest landscaping”, replacing water hogging lawns with pebbles and wood chips covering sheets of weed block plastic. Those well-intentioned choices–responding to the world’s shortage of clean water–may not have included the needs of those residential trees in their calculations.
Some of those householders may well have chosen their house because Ponderosa Pines waved them in to check out the bedrooms and living rooms, not suspecting that, years later, their own choices would be the cause of those pines dying of thirst. It rained almost half an inch last night but root networks spreading under weed-block-canopies didn’t receive a drop to drink.
And what about our larger society, so awash in the unanticipated collateral damage of unbridled consumerism, in which so many people are like those pine trees, not just cut off from a supply of clean water, but from the freedom to stand proudly in the sun?