The other day while reading Station 11, a fictional apocalyptic story, I was struck by the prose and narrative in a way that granted me a moment of perspective. Despite society and civilization literally falling apart in this story, the human spirit persisted (we are remarkable creatures in our ability to endure despite all seeming lost at given moments). Even in the face of tremendous loss in this story, people still found a way to recognize beauty in the world and endure. The overgrowth of nature re-staking it’s claim in the metropolises of the world. Flowers blooming from cracks in the asphalt. Fields of overgrown flora and forests filled with the Earth’s fauna where industrial factories once stood. The incredible depth and scope of the night sky free from the light pollution of the past. The main characters of the story relished in these moments with gratitude despite destruction surrounding them.
“Survival is Insufficient” was their mantra (cribbed from an old Star Trek episode from 1992), so they carried on the traditions of the arts – music, symphony, theatre – in this new world devoid of the creature comforts (that we all have grown so accustomed to, and most likely have come to neglect). They encountered unimaginable danger navigating the recesses of what was left of humanity and civilization to share these traditions and performances to others – all to bring a modicum of joy and happiness to its remaining denizens – to remind them that life can be good. To give themselves a sense of purpose.
It was a fantastic read that I highly recommend. And like the best of literature, it really engaged my thought process in an interesting way. I reflected on all those days I spent fruitlessly trying to escape my woes via chemical solutions (figuratively and literally). I thought of all the time I spent in those states of non-presence, letting my life slip past me, focusing in on the negativity of the one thing happening on any given day as opposed to the hundreds of miraculous, beautiful things happening at the same time. It’s funny how that works. We can be surrounded by beauty – and if we have no perspective in those moments – it will never be enough. I thought of the selfishness of my disease for so many years, the lack of thought I put into the wellbeing of the people around me, all in pursuit of an endless cycle of chemically induced oblivion. Anything I could do, to avoid facing the music (of life itself, of adulthood, of responsibility) at any cost.
I lived in that state for what felt like an eternity. Perpetual victimhood. Perpetual self-centeredness. I couldn’t see the forest through the trees even if the whole thing fell on top of my head. I was so concerned with all the details of my misgivings with existence that they overshadowed any form of a grander plan being presented to me. But for the grace of God, my life may have ended that way too – lost in separation from everything and everyone.
Thankfully, it didn’t. I was blessed in that my suffering became so great – through a concentrated sequence of apocalyptic-feeling experiences of my own – that I was able to be presented with, and embrace, a new way of living. I was able to begin to see outside the narrow scope of my limited worldview and look upon the oftentimes beautiful wonder of our world, the intricacies and meaning of existence in and of itself – to find purpose. Purpose, outside of myself. I stopped “surviving” and found healing in service to others. I found happiness and gratitude in the small miracles.
Station 11 reminded me of these principles, which I oftentimes forget. That while we may endure terrible seasons of loss and hardship in our lives, while we may lose our presence – the beauty of the world still exists despite our own clouded perspective. The opportunities to enrich and improve the lives of others are myriad. The good things are always there if we take the time to appreciate them – even if the rough patches are what it takes to force us into that position. In the face of colossal loss, hardship, struggle, and hundreds of forms of danger – this band of survivors came together to collectively preserve the things in life that sustain us in this corporeal realm. Family. Friendship. Culture. Community. Finding joy and beauty in the smallest of things – and purpose in assisting others find the same.
Sean – In recovery
You can read, comment and ask questions for Sean to address in his blog on the PAL website, home page – www.Palgroup.org