Martin LeFevre: Toddlers In The Stream
Toddlers in the Stream
Looking up from the rippling waters of the creek, in the deep emerald shade of oaks and sycamores, my eyes hold fast to a single streamside plant.
It has a long, slender stalk, and huge, heart-shaped leaves. The full rays of the sun are on every upturned leaf, and for a moment, I swear I can hear the plant singing. It is all the more surprising because my mood, while not sour, is rather somber.
A few kids are playing in the shallow water over a hundred meters upstream. They shout and splash with abandon for an entire hour, never tiring as far as I can tell. There is a baby amongst them, a toddler. He or she holds its arms outstretched, delighting in the flow and coolness of the water on a hot afternoon.
The toddler and the sun-dappled plant with the heart-shaped leaves intimate something that I, with my skeptical mind, have at times wrongly doubted--that the essence of life, the nature of the universe itself, is love. But if that’s so, how did man evolve and make a world like this?
In fleeting moments, or during meditative states, one sees that love permeates nature. It is not an emotion, much less a sentiment, nor does it care for humankind anymore than the smallest insect. It just is. The word has all kinds of personal associations, or religious overtones, but love is actually explosive and uncontrollable, like creation itself.
The habit and need to control, no doubt, is why love does not flow through human life, and why unimpeded compassion runs through very few people indeed. (When it does, they are either crucified or deified.)
But that only begs the question: if love is the infinite wellspring of life (and by life I mean also the birth and death of stars and galaxies), then how did humans evolve, much less become such a ‘successful’ species?
That is, ruling out a ‘Creator’ made in the image of man, how is it that the immanent intelligence of the universe produced such an ill fitting, discordant, and even disgusting creature such as man? A lot of people have come to the conclusion that this insane world provides the answer: there is no God. But that’s too easy. Besides, atheism is just the flip side of the believer’s creed.
Belief of any kind kills beauty, joy, and love because beliefs are the product of the mind, not intimations in the heart. Nothing can be fixed in the heart. Truth exists in the present moment, and then is gone, like the sunlight on those magnificent leaves waving ever so gently beside a placid stream.
So did nature make a mistake with man? Given the ability of humans to effectively kill an entire planet, at least while we’re walking around on it, how could evolution make such a mistake?
From this perspective, it appears that the evolution of life in the universe contains a great flaw. Wherever “higher thought” evolves and reigns supreme, there also arises a species in increasing contradiction with life, a species eventually causing the fragmentation of entire ecosystems, a species that wages perpetual war on its own kind. That is not the author’s misanthropy, but the irrefutable facts of the human presence and impact on this planet.
While it may seem like hubris to extrapolate a cosmic pattern from human destructiveness, the arrogance is actually to assume that we humans are either unique or uniquely destructive in the universe. Even here on earth, humankind’s closest relative, the chimpanzee (which possesses a high degree of conscious thought), one finds a creature that occasionally commits murder and makes war on its own kind.
So is the mistake ours, or evolution’s? Is it that in understanding ourselves, the human anomaly, we transcend the limitations and perils of symbolic thought?
One thing is for sure--only we can bring about the transmutation within ourselves that will enable humankind to change course. The key, to my mind, is to fully awaken insight, so that it overtakes thought. As bad as things look, we may be closer to the tipping point than we realize.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.