The shower is often where I have flashes of insight or begin explorations of the abstract. Perhaps it’s the vulnerability of being naked and wet, or maybe it’s the interaction of water within/without, or maybe it’s the sloughing off of the previous day. Whatever the reason, that’s a potent space of meaning-making for me.
This week, the major exploration I set off on was survival. “To be human is to be constantly surviving.” This articulation flashed across my consciousness like lightning, and I immediately went after it.
Living things are programmed for survival, as any number of scientists will tell you. We have centuries of evolution and cultural artifacts that tell seemingly infinite stories of survival. We tend to think of survival as being an event with certain significance—an event with weight, that takes up space in our life stories.
But what if survival is measurable on a spectrum?
I have just survived this moment.
And this one.
And this one.
I have just taken a breath.
Cells are dying and being replenished every moment. Linear time progresses forward. The reality of now continuously gives way to then. The “me” that exists in this instant is not the same “me” that exists in the next instant.
We are in a constant state of change, which means that we are constantly dying and being reborn, constantly being reinvented, constantly on the brink, crossing thresholds, stepping into new realities.
This constant newness is something we have been conditioned to be unaware of. The miracle of surviving the millisecond could potentially overwhelm us, and so somewhere in the earliest stages of life in the Universe, the coding that turns down the volume on the awareness of the ever-present miracle was hardwired into life.
We are always in survival mode.
We are explorers, journeying into the next moment, and then the next, and the next…
My hardwiring and life lived has equipped me with the ability to turn up the volume on the awareness of survival. As an artist, I have studied and worked (and continue to study and work) on my awareness of the Universe and all that it offers. As a person who lives with depression, anxiety, and other neurodivergence, I am keenly conscious of my ongoing survival—and grateful for each and every moment because of that consciousness.
And so it occurred to me:
Human existence is a daily experiencing of trauma, either consciously or subconsciously;
The continuation of existence is a story of infinite survivals that occur on a vast spectrum;
This business of being human is terribly awesome.