It is from time to time and every now and again, when the wind moves and the trees begin to sway, and the sound of rustling leaves fills the air, that I get a little closer to that feeling—of being connected, or embedded, like I’m part of it all again, like I’m home.

But most days, I’m not so sure. On most days, I wonder how everything got like this; how we let everything get like this. As individuals and as a species, how did we get so lost? How did things get so out of control? Maybe it’s beyond our control now, that which was in reach now caught in a self-perpetuating cycle of sorts, as vicious and wicked as any other. When the ball was dropped centuries (or millennia) ago, it just kept rolling, racing towards a future that is neither known nor rightly considered. Maybe it will fall. Maybe it will stop. Maybe, one day soon, this will all end, and the loop will close.

Lately (more than usual I’m afraid), I find myself reflecting on the state of the world and everything and everyone in it. And I have entertained a thought as existentially distressing as it is emotionally confronting: that the world we have created for ourselves, this thing we call “society,” is a cage unto itself, comparable to a fish’s aquarium or a chicken’s coop. It too is constraining and withholding, like some invisible fence reigning humanity for generations past and generations to come. The laws and norms constructed to maintain order have over time led to new forms of chaos, both within the individual and throughout the systems and institutions of the society itself. Walls and borders once thought necessary for peace and cooperation have given way to acts of ever greater conflict and division, perhaps because they’re too isolating, separating us from everything that we have come from (and everything that we are). Rip nature from the grips of our ancestors, and what you’re left with is modern human, a creature plagued by diseases of the psychological and social varieties; such ailments as depression, violence, and celebrity; power and entitlement; and, worst of all, apathy. Dangle nature before us like the proverbial carrot that it is, and we are left gasping and grasping for something that the conventions of modern life no longer allow, but that our hearts and minds yearn for anyway.

Take an orca out of the ocean and place it in an aquarium and you’ll evoke a state of despair not unlike that of a caged chimpanzee, marked first by desperation and second by disillusionment—until the thing that was a living and breathing thing becomes just another thing, disconnected from all the life and world that surrounds it (separated from everything that it came from). Take humans out of nature and place them in this mess, and you’ll see similar effects on mind and behaviour. Our psychopathology to their dorsal fin collapse, fences and cages change us all. And the superficial sources of gratification imposed upon us—the selfies and mass consumption and posturing of ego—leave us longing for what is real. But what is real is now lost, relegated to dreams and remembered in fragments, as if there exist abstractions of the world that are at odds with one another. What is real is outside of it all—through the bars and beyond the fences. And we long for it. If we could hold it again, we would surely all agree. (We would surely be different.)

In my day-to-day, I push through it. You push through it, too. We weren’t given much of a choice, after all. We were born into this mess, and the cycle’s as vicious as ever…

And then suddenly, like a cool breeze passing through the bars, it washes over you again: that feeling of something familiar, something comforting and real, something that isn’t part of the chaos. In but a fleeting moment, in a mere snapshot of existence, you’re almost there. You’re closer to it than ever before. You smell truth in the air, taste freedom on your lips, and it brings you home again. For a second, maybe longer, you’re connected to something greater than yourself, something greater than all of this. There are no trimmed branches in this place. No manicured lawns or concrete walls. No fences or bars to speak of. No cages or rules to bind you. No realities perceived or imagined. Just nature, or home, or something like that…

And then you’re back, eyes open; or, perhaps, eyes closed. And you begin to wonder again of the world and all the people in it, and all their love and hate and fear. And you wonder of your place in it all, too, and what the future holds.

Who are you?

Who are we?

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