As the sun’s warmth soothes my skin here upon a beach in East Devon, it feels impossible that people are suffering, that individuals as lively as me are being killed in Eastern Europe. That one of history’s turning points is underway. That the East has started to dominate the West; the great chess player Putin stated this is how the game is unfolding. And Xi of China agrees.
I pick up a pebble, enjoy its quartzite hardness smoothed millennia ago and marvel that it’s history dwarfs that of my fragile hand. We fret over ideologies, borders, resources, our brief time seems expansive, but these pebbles beneath my bottom were formed when life only existed in the vast sea surrounding the super-continent Pangea.
It’s current form was created over 400 million years ago, five mass extinctions ago. I hold it as another of the many wars we wage distracts us from the multiple mass extinctions we, in just one hundred and seventy years, have created. The surface of this sturdy pebble hardly altered in all the time since Buddha lived yet within one decade the hand that holds it may not exist. It will look as it does now when all the current civilisations we are so obsessed with have wilted.
It lay in this shape, right here, before life emerged from the sea, before trees existed, before the formation of the red cliffs behind me which seem so permanent. In some long gone era it and these millions of similar pebbles were gradually eroded in to this shape by a mighty river flowing from huge mountains rising in the centre of a vast desert at a time before fish were life’s supreme expression.
And now, after hundreds of millions of years of life’s struggle, we use our brains, life’s most amazing product, to destroy one another, to send creatures science has not yet registered, towards extinction. And all for greed and to dominate each other with our frail thoughts. What a waste.
All our folly begins with the way we interact with this pebble. Lift it, appreciate it, don’t seek to change it or use it. But we can’t. I want to take it home to remind me of this extraordinary day when I felt microscopic, yet vast. I want to display it in our garden. We are driven to act, to create, to move on, it is not in our nature to let things rest as they are. We wish to improve our lot, to use this pebble in a manner which will enhance our days. But then so did those sea things evolve in such a manner to eventually generate us.
Our super-brains can turn humanity’s tide, we can stop altering everything, rest with what we have, find satisfaction in the small things, be less consumptive, less materialistic. Putin, who is no advert, says we in The West have a corrupt, greed orientated civilisation, Xi of China, who again is no advert, says the same as they both feed on our multiple weaknesses. Four thousand years ago Indian yogis stated that we were entering the Age of Kali, a period of abject materialism, that we would one day destroy ourselves. After that, it would all slowly start up again.
This pebble has ‘seen’ that. It ‘saw’ vegetation arrive on land, it ‘saw’ those wormy creatures come and change into complex life. It ‘saw’ the dinosaurs come and go. And here it is in my hand ‘telling’ me that we are dissatisfied, that we seek satiation in consumerism, that we struggle to dominate others because we have not learnt to use our astounding minds to the advantage of everything, us included.
Simply stepping aside from the private carnivals our minds generate, we can find a pleasure greater than the countless distractions which fuel our civilisations. By settling into the brain’s sensual input, by being attentive to the multiple happenings of this moment, with or without that pebble, we can realise the supreme satisfaction to be had in being with ourselves, with life. We’d lose the desire to dominate each other, we’d gain the wish to protect life.