Living undisturbed (where the eagles fly)
This is an entry from my journal.
Two eagles flew right above me this morning: a parent with its baby. This is the closest they have ever been. They were lower than the height of a tall tree in my vicinity. I estimate their distance from me to have been ~10 metres. The parent eagle passed by first, followed by the baby. I saw these same eagles yesterday, only there were two babies. I guess the other one was somewhere around as well, but took a detour. Eagles are apex predators and thus smart enough to discern complex patterns in their environment. They most definitely recognise me and have long now noticed my presence in these mountains.
I have been encountering eagles almost every day for the past several months. Yesterday, the parent eagle was flying towards my position on a straight line. I was observing its travel for a couple of minutes. Once it got close, it stalled and circled above me perhaps five times, rising from the starting 30 metre height up to what felt like thrice that number. The two babies were right behind it.
Why would the parent eagle stop midway to perform circles above me? Did it need to assess the state of affairs? Perhaps to confirm that I was neither threat nor prey? This is probably it. Though I cannot rule out the possibility that it was simply saluting me. Maybe all life forms have the potential for affinity with other forms of life, such as how humans like dogs while dogs like humans. It happens with animals and I will not be surprised if plants are the same. There are difference of degree, of course, though life is universal and immanent to the cosmos. Perhaps we lack the consciousness or simply the scale to understand life in all of its manifestations, such as the life of the Earth or the solar system at-large, though we can sense it is ubiquitous as part of the very fabric of the world: an ever-present oneness.
The most memorable experience with an eagle was during the summer. I finished a long day of construction work at the hut and sat outside looking towards the opposite side of the valley. There is a lone oak tree there, about 100 metres from where my house is. After a few minutes, an eagle came flying by and landed on top of that tree. It sat on the highest branch and was looking towards my location. I was expecting it to be afraid at the sight of a human or, anyhow, to not find me interesting. Yet the eagle stayed there for 40+ minutes. It left before twilight. My original plan was to catch a breath and get going. I ended up staying there until the eagle had departed.
I do not think there is anything especially different about me or those eagles. All that is, is an instantiation of life, consubstantial with all others. Me and these birds are relatively close as forms of life (as opposed to algae, for example), have no direct opposition to each other for the time being, and happen to be collocated. For me, what is out-of-the-ordinary is how a human can pay attention to these moments. I know our species well and can tell this is not common. I remember I once told someone about an eagle flying in the distance. I was admiring it, while my peer did not even turn to look at it, remarking “let it do its thing”. I probably was the same some years ago…
Why was I awestruck in that moment while the other person appeared indifferent? My guess is that I have learnt not to postpone experiences. I can only live in the present. There is no future of mine that is certain. No state of affairs is in my control, while very few factors are contingent on my volition. Put differently, there is a whole spectrum of magnitudes whose workings will affect me and on which I have no power over. Life as I live it is now.
In my present, I witness this magnificent bird flying right above me and sense we are friendly towards each other. Tomorrow, I may not be here, or it may not be around, or one of infinite possibilities might materialise… I thus allow myself the chance to take it slow and experience these moments with no regrets. There is no rewind action in our life, no reset button to fall back to a pristine state, no cheat code to start again with extra powers. We can only do what our condition and the circumstances render possible.
I have learnt to accept humanity and thus to live in the here and now. Fundamentally, I have managed to overcome self-inhibitions by asking “what do I have to lose?” I pose this question without violating the principle of practicality. For instance, I know I do not need to jump off a cliff to test what happens. The question is about those issues we tend to overthink and for which the actual cost of their loss is negligible, even we our initial impression suggests otherwise. Think about the uncertainty of telling someone you fancy them. In indeterminate matters, we will know whether our actions produce the outcome we want only after the fact. If we refrain from acting, we essentially choose the imagination of the experience over the experience. While we may find momentary comfort in those thoughts which may contradict the truth, we also loath our self deeply for not rising up to the occasion, for making the mistake of thinking that there is a life to be lived outside the present.
Self-loathing is what holds us back. It is the accumulation of those regrets we have, of choices we did not make, of the courage we never mustered when it mattered the most. Thinking back at those moments, we recognise how we did not gain anything nor preserved something, for we had nothing. Instead we lost the requisite respect and admiration for our own self. In that state of mind, we feel trapped in a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecies, as we dislike who we are and are sensitive to spot the same pattern in the behaviour of others towards us. Our negativity elicits more negativity.
How can others like you when you do not, friend? It takes an undisturbable person to recognise your value; the value you yourself cannot spot, let alone appreciate, given the commotion within. Most people will feel uneasiness in your midst, because that is what you tacitly yet unmistakably express. Those around us often act as a mirror that reveals to us our innermost disturbance. Our nature has this alert mechanism to help us address the underlying imbalance by being honest about the fact. It requires us to let go of arbitrary rules and value judgements in order to first tolerate and then to refine what is.
Inner tranquillity reflects as tranquillity all around. The subjective experience is the only experience we have. While we cannot control the world around us, we do have an impact on our selfhood and how we perceive of it. How do I fix myself? You cannot, my dear. The only question that will emancipate you from your torment is how to forgive yourself; how to not hold your self up to the standard of another and to not be judged, punished, and tortured by it. Work with what you have and let go of all the “must” and “mustn’t” you keep parroting: they are not yours; they do not fit you; they are your prison.
Thinking back at these moments, I wrote a poem for the stray souls who did the little things in earnest to eventually accept who they are and not feel guilty about it:
Magi's domain Undisturbed you shall enter the magi's domain With no expectations, no indecision, no regrets Your outlook is aligned with your actuality In self-forgiveness you walk the enchanted lands And as you look skyward, the eagles salute you