There is a chill in the air this morning that stirs instinct and memory. The hummingbirds are busy, shaking off the cold and feeding heavily. Our little friends predict weather better than all the best computer models and prognosticators, and they will be leaving us soon on their long journey south.
In the high country, there is a tinge of color, and the haze of summer has given way to the transpicuous brightness of autumn. No matter where you go, the sun seems to get in your eyes. Leaves are gathering on the yard. Slowly, and then all at once, the seasons change.
Like the hummingbirds, and almost in spite of ourselves, we feel it too. Our time in the virtual world, hunched over our little screens and apprehending the world through the pictures we take of ourselves, is a brief moment in our long history on the planet, as ephemeral as the pixels we worship. Technology has insulated us from the natural world that sustains us. It has convinced us that truth is whatever we pretend it to be, but God is not mocked. The planet still hangs exactly in that “Goldilocks” zone needed to sustain life, tilted at precisely the 23.5 degrees necessary to let the birds know when it’s time to move on.
Whatever we may pretend to be, we are creatures created of the dust of this earth, and forever tied to it. The way we think and the way we feel, underneath whatever veneer of civilization we may apply, is driven by the hunt and the harvest, and shaped by the seasons.
Perhaps our journey to the virtual world was inevitable, however. Even when we lived in caves, huddled in furs against the cold, we painted our fantasies on the walls in the flickering firelight. Long before computers, art in all its forms flowed out of us, inextinguishable, irrepressible, as if it, too, was encoded into our most basic instincts.
Perhaps we were designed never to be quite satisfied with what is, to always reach beyond our grasp. Perhaps that is why we were dropped off here, way out on the broken rim of the galaxy, to see if we could find our way home. The hummingbird can. With a brain the size of a pea, it makes a round trip of thousands of miles to return the next year to the same feeder in the same window. Yet we, with all our technology and sophistication, are lost.
Consider also what our reaching and grasping has done to the planet. It’s not enough to live on it, live with it. Instead we digest and excrete our home. The extent of our wisdom as a species is to burn the house down to warm ourselves.
There may be a clue for us in that odd, 23.5 deg. tilt of our home. Any more and the extremes of climate would make civilization difficult. Any less and we would lack the seasons that have given us abundance and diversity. The planet is balanced just right, but balance is precisely what we lack as humans.