Monday, August 13, 2012

Air

Swiss Miss
In the fall of 1970 I was introduced to the music of the Incredible String Band, unaware that they had been introduced to U.S. audiences by virtue of their appearance at Woodstock the year before. The simple character of their songs expressed a joyful celebration of life and seemed to express that awe-attitude with which children first see the world, unfettered by social games and pre-conceived expectations.

Every now and then this song from their album Wee Tam returns to me in its entirety.

Air

Breathing, all creatures are
Brighter then than brightest star
You are by far

You come right inside of me
Close as you can be
You kiss my blood and the blood kiss me

It's a wonder how the air we breathe goes right inside of us, not simply into our lungs, but all the way into our very beings. The wonderful, incredible way in which oxygen is carried by the blood stream and its tributaries and capillaries to nourish and cleanse every cell in our bodies is a wonder of creation.

Breathing is something we usually take for granted. But until our last breath, it’s the ongoing miracle that sustains us.

At the end of a busy day we can sometimes collapse in our beds so weary and spent we have no energy left for anything, even reading. Yet we go on breathing, replenishing our cells, sustaining our bodies with vital air.

I am reminded of the instructions Tom Hanks gave himself in the film Castaway. “Just keep breathing.”

And I am likewise reminded of Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain, a book whose opening chapter was initiated by visits to a sanatorium high in the Swiss Alps while his wife was suffering from lung issues. The thin air at high altitudes was likely more accessible to lungs whose passages have been swollen or constricted by asthma or tuberculosis. In other words, breathing is something most of us take for granted, but many can not.

Air is something real that we all believe in yet seldom see. That, I find, is a fascinating concept.

Whatever else you're doing today, please keep breathing

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