Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Watching the grass grow

The other day I went past an area that I used to mow. It's on the part of the farm that was sold, and the new owners don't mow it. The grass and weeds are now waist high, and that's after a dryish winter. By summer the place will be a big scary jungle unless they bring in the big guns (tractor with slasher).

It's not like I was ever really emotionally attached to keeping the grass short - because no, I wasn't - but it felt strange to see that all trace of my efforts has been obliterated. My work there was of no lasting effect; it's like I was never even there at all.

Being inclined to ponder such things, I saw a metaphor for my life. One day I'll be dead, and one day all the people I know will be dead, and because I have no children, I won't have contributed to the world in terms of genes or new people, and I haven't done anything else of lasting importance either. When I die, there'll be no sign that I was ever here at all. The activities which currently absorb all my time and effort will one day come to nothing whatsoever. The metaphorical grass will grow up and cover the place I used to be, and that'll be that. Jungle again.

Which is all fine and obvious, of course. Why should it be otherwise? Billions of humans have come and gone, most of them probably leaving genes, but maybe not a lot more in terms of any real significance. From the world's point of view - if it had a point of view, and I'm wildly guessing here ;) - we're just ants in the big ants' nest of life. We can and will be squished into oblivion as easily as we humans mindlessly squish ants underfoot. We don't last, and most of what we do doesn't last either. History records a few movers and shakers, but most of us won't do much more than tremble; we'll just live for a while and then disappear.

I'm not saying that our lives don't matter. Quite the opposite. Of course they matter. I think everything we do matters. Living is important - we matter because we're here, I think, not because we're here to "do" something.

Still. Anyway. Et cetera. I don't know. In fact, sometimes I don't know anything, and this is one of those times. Maybe I'm talking about the intersection between personal and public significance: what I do matters to me and mine, but not to anybody else. But no, that's not really it either, because what I do contributes in some small way to the way the world runs. Even though it probably won't be individually recognisable, I'm making a contribution to the greater whole of humanity and the earth. Or some bloody thing... Hmph. Let's just go back to "Sometimes I don't know anything."

And let's go back to that jungle, the area I used to mow. The grass and weeds are rioting now that I've gone, and the other day, looking at them quickly from a car driving past, just for a second it felt like they'd dismissed me.