In yoga, one is taught to breathe. In relaxation therapy, one is taught to breathe deeply and slowly. Breathing in this manner is meant to calm or to soothe us.
Breathing, in the spring, summer and fall of 2020 is neither calming nor soothing. When George Floyd said, “I can’t breathe,” the police didn’t listen or did listen but didn’t care, and he was murdered. For nearly 200,000 Americans who have died from SARS-COV-2, their inability to breathe led to their deaths — many alone in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, with no relatives to comfort them as they passed.
Close to 6.5 million Americans have had or have the virus, and for many, the symptoms have yet to go away. And now, for those of us living on the West Coast, breathing has become dangerous due to the historically high level of toxins and smoke produced by the “apocalyptic” wildfires, most continuing their fiery path of destruction unchecked and many likely burning until the snow falls. Some might ask, “What next?” but it’s probably best not to (earthquakes and tsunamis come to mind).
As humans, we are always seeking answers. Anyone who’s had a toddler has heard over and over, “Why? Why? Why?” and as they get older, “How come?” So it stands to reason that as adults, we are wondering why the pandemic, why the fires, just as others around the country are wondering why the hurricanes, why the floods.
If I had created planet Earth 7½ billion years ago, and had watched from afar as humans (who have only been here for about 6 million years) with the advent of the British Industrial Revolution around 1760, began the destruction of the planet (that I created and loved) and watched as it came to the brink of becoming uninhabitable, I might allow, say, half or even two-thirds of humanity to die, in order to save my beloved creation. So maybe that’s why.
Or maybe it’s as my very religious cousins believe, Jesus is soon to return (not in my generation — I’m nearly 70) but the next. They tell me this is prophesied in Revelation, the last book of the Bible. Maybe they’re right.
But the truth is, no one knows. The only thing we know for sure is that our planet appears to be dying and we are the cause. So perhaps those who survive the pandemic, the fires, the floods, the hurricanes, the migrations, perhaps they will figure out a way to live on planet Earth.
Sting, in his song “All This Time,” sang, “What good is a used-up world and how could it be worth having?” We are pretty much at that point now, and if those who are young and survive can’t figure out a way to work without commuting, to do without fossil fuels, without plastics without giant and often cruel agribusinesses, without herbicides and pesticides, then they too, will inherit a used-up world and only speed its demise.