I woke early this morning. It was still dark and the neighbourhood was quiet. At first I thought that blocked sinuses had snagged me awake at an unearthly hour until a kookaburra shattered the silence with a raucous laugh.
It always seems to be the loudest bird that begins the chorus. In Africa its fish eagles that squawk you awake if you camp anywhere near water. In my sleepy Sydney suburb it is kookaburras.
Being an early bird myself, I knew sleep was done, so I propped myself up a little to ease the sinuses and contemplated.
There is nothing wrong with contemplation. As the mind rambles, brushes on the existential, or just chatters along, all that goes on in the brain is made well by even a moment of observation by our true self — the quiet observer all things.
It is a shame that this silent observer is so often drowned out by all our noise that we forget it is there.
In my own early morning quiet I began to imagine the lives of everyone — the almost countless numbers of people that during the day ahead would go about their business.
Those in my street and suburb were easy enough. Almost all of them would be sleeping and coming to the end of another night’s rest in home comfort. My mind’s eye wandered toward the city of Sydney, stretched out on the plain below us as dots of light at this hour. I tried to imagine over 4 million souls, most of them sleeping too. Suburb after suburb of houses, each with one, two or a few folk resting with the doors locked.
Randomly my mind jumped to Haiti, a country on the other side of the world that I have never visited. Why Haiti I did not know for the contemplating mind has a will of its own. There were more people of course, and it would be towards the end of their day, many would be eating and evening meal. I could only guess at the menu other than to let my conditioned imagination suggests there were few banquets.
As you do when contemplating, I asked myself if these people really existed. I have never seen them and can only assume that they were there eating supper. Haiti is labeled on any map of the world and the country will be on Wikipedia lists, so logic says it exists, and by extension, so do the people. And, sure enough, Wikipedia says that today there are 10.1 million people in Haiti, double the number that lived there in 1974.
In the quiet that followed the kookaburra alarm call as my thoughts settled on my imagined Haitian village, I felt the magnitude of us all — the ever so very many people on earth.
And it was a surprisingly neutral feeling. I was neither scared nor fearful. I did not feel worried, nor was I sad or frightened. Equally I was not jumping with joy at our numerical success. After all, it is what it is.
Many people, living many lives that make more people.
By now the rest of the dawn chorus had joined in as the growing light confirmed the reliability of the kookaburra’s internal clock. The moment passed and it was okay to be worried again, to let my mind chase every petrified thought of lack, and to settle onto a persistent fear for the future.