In the last few years’ I’ve become more aware of how wonderful a thing it is to breathe. It’s not like I’ve recovered from a pulmonary disease or a near-drowning experience or anything, I’ve just come to appreciate the pleasant sensation that accompanies air moving in and out of my lungs. I feel it now, a slight tickle in what I imagine might be my capillaries.
It’s odd that I never really seemed to be aware of this before. God knows my lungs are not what they once were, having smoked cigarettes for decades. You’d think in my youth I would have occasionally marveled at this feeling, seeing as how all physical sensation seems heightened in youth.
Perhaps this awareness started to evolve a dozen or more years ago when I finally kicked the nicotine addiction, choosing fresh air over poisonous smoke. Sometimes getting a second chance at life makes us appreciate it more.
I’ve also noticed of late how good it feels to move. Again, I cannot move as I once did in my twenties or in childhood. But when I allow my body to move at its own speed, to exert itself with an appropriate force, I am reminded that bodies are meant to move, are happiest in motion. If I only meet it on its terms and do not try to force it to be what I want it to be, but allow it to be what it is, it will not merely respond but do so joyfully. I am not just some lump of clay but the energy that moves through it. I may be dependent upon my limited frame, but it is not all that I am.
I can feel this way in a factory, where the air is not sweet and the sounds are not that of nature. Do not get me wrong, I prefer nature, but I can transcend my surroundings. Sometimes I lie awake at night and feel my breathing, and think of how wonderful it is to be alive. And while I appreciate it that my wife is next to me and our dog is between us, if I were alone, I would still be aware of how pleasant a thing it is to breathe.
I lie in bed and breathe, thankful for the modest but comforting blanket on top of me. I enjoy the coolness of the air mixed with the blanket’s ability to moderate it. If I inhale deeply, I might get a whiff of the simple but extremely enriching meal that my wife made earlier. Such wonderful smells tend to pervade the household and hang around. There are leftovers in the refrigerator and we will have the opportunity to dine on it again tomorrow.
Life is simple. Happiness is simple. The true joys of life do not require fighting over. There is more than enough for all. I sometimes ask myself, late at night when the air is brisk but the blanket is comforting, why we must fight so bitterly for the things that do not make us happy. Why do we focus on other things when simply acknowledging the beauty of the moment has the power to bring us contentment? Sometimes I feel that we as a species are throwing everything away, everything, for things that do not matter at all, for things that do not bring joy but only distract us from it.
I think of such things, and I open myself up to an immense sadness for what we have to lose. The world is dominated by those who fear and crave and hate but who clearly do not appreciate the simple joy of breathing. Such people are leading our society, our species, our entire planet to ruin. Like others, I have tasted despair and quiet desperation in my life, and I know they still call to me, not as a solution but as a resignation.
But then I become aware of my breathing. I hear my dog’s inhalations next to me, free from all the concerns we humans have. I could lose myself to despair, but that would help nobody, least of all myself. I accept the simple comforts the universe has provided me. With gratitude. With joy. Perhaps, if I can appreciate fully such simple things, others might come to ask me what it is that makes me so at peace, so contented, so joyful. I can think of no other way to get people to cease their pursuit of useless acquisitions, to choose a path of peace rather than a path of violence and domination.
I’ve tried other ways, and they did nothing to change the world, they only made me forget how wonderful it is to breathe, how wonderful it is to be alive. I feel it now.