A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Nuclear Annihilation

My mother would have asked me, “Do you mean funny ‘ha ha’ or funny peculiar?”

Right now I mean funny epiphany if that is a thing. I could laugh at its simplicity and I could be perplexed by the peculiarity of the collective human psyche. We are what got us here. Having this discussion. You and me. Putin and Zelensky. Others. The father cradling his dead child, the mothers who parked strollers at the train station.

Media throwing around phrases like World War III. The fallout of dread is already overtaking so many in a global cloud of fear and despair. Will he? Won’t he? If it doesn’t happen this time, might it happen later? Might one of the countries quietly watching decide that threat is almost as good as the real thing?

Here are a few uncomfortable factoids to consider and then I’ll tell you what’s funny.

1. War is the most lucrative industry on the planet. In order to keep that economic leviathan going vis a vis supply and demand, arsenals must be emptied to create more demand so supply can satisfy it. Machine well oiled. Ipso Facto.

2. We, as a global community looking on, while “leaders” decide who gets to gather nuclear weapons and who supplies whom and the scurry to rewrite agreements in a pinch, seem surprised or aghast that one of these countries might actually use the technology. What’s with that? How naive are we?

3. Nuclear bombs are about 3000 times more powerful than the one dropped on Hiroshima. So in the debate of who did what to whom, does it really matter at the moment who started it? If someone decides to finish it. That’s pretty much it.

4. Our very entertainment is nihilistic. Sensational. Dystopian. In “play”, our children are learning the dexterity of shooting and killing another being at close range, not only without remorse, but with celebration of points. We are desensitized and inured to the suffering of others and the consequence of our own actions.

There have been many wars since WW II they just weren’t so close to home. Maybe not so threatening. We glanced and looked away from the suffering, the aggression, from the courage, the annihilation of cities… of lives.

If you think that sanity might prevail at the final moment, consider how you have responded to an argument that escalates out of control. Did you make rational choices at the apogee of rage? How about with an audience?

The critical moment when peace or perish is the choice, who of all the leaders wielding such powers — no one in particular — any one of them, do you really trust? At the end of the day, peace is an inside job. No human is a more precious expression of life than another, more deserving of living.

It’s interesting to me that from a cosmic standpoint this cataclysm is ushered in on the final days of the pandemic when life around the globe is more or less getting back to… not normal, but greater freedom. We are tentatively stepping out on wobbly legs. We are still emotionally unsteady.

We learned a lot from that time of lockdown. We inevitably faced our demons, our shadow selves. We discovered new priorities, new skills. Strengths and weaknesses. Some, instead of facing inner demons projected out onto demonic others. Some deserving some not. The thing that became clear is the one person we have to live with is ourselves. We might have glimpsed that life is precious. Perhaps we suffered saying good bye to a loved one from a distance without holding them one more time.

We were separated, insulated. Afraid to hug. Unable to shake hands. Unable to tolerate another’s viewpoint that differed from ours. We became distrustful, of each other and of our governments, our media. Our inner compass askew. Our shadows selves loomed. And now this.

But, you know all this already. Here’s what I want to tell you. What I want you to think about.

When I got up this morning the power was out. No worries, I welcomed the silence and tech-free moment to have coffee in the garden. We have a little propane thing most Greek homes have to make café Hellenico. Mine wasn’t very good. I don’t have Athan’s knack for it, but he’s away in Cyprus on business. I will appreciate his return.

The sun was warm, but I still needed a sweater. I picked up Maria Popova’s book “Figuring” that I had bought for Athan for his birthday. Here is what spawned this introspection:

“How, in the blink of existence bookended by nothingness, do we attain completeness of being?”

When I was little, we had drills at school. When the siren sounded, we were to huddle beside our desks in case of nuclear attack and flying glass from the windows. Even then, this seemed absurd to me. The teacher had told us that when the bomb hit Hiroshima, people were extinguished so hotly and quickly their shadow remained for seconds longer. Imagine that? I pictured my little body melted in a heap and then poof! A fading shadow.

Here’s one more fact that I need to make clear to complete my path to the funny thing about all this,

We are all dying. YUP. All. None of us knows how or when. At sixty-eight I am aware that no matter how robust and entrepreneurial I feel, I am on a finite time line. But then again, so are you. None of us gets out of this life alive. But what of joie de vivre and what of legacy? I care about that. In spite of the world quivering in fear.

I’ve got stuff to do! Cool stuff. Inspired stuff. Beautiful stuff. I resent my ‘natural’ timeline being toyed with by children with guns every bit as much as I resent my air, water and food being destroyed by those who do not feel or see the earth as Mother.

I have always sought a meaningful life. I even wrote a book about it. “Exhilarated Life: Discovering Inner Happiness.” But in view of end days I must confess I have missed the mark. And this morning when I was feeling the gravity of Maria’s question, especially poignant in the context of today’s news, I had this feeling of … well, joy. Isn’t that funny?

I told you I was in the garden and I looked up overhead at the pomegranate leaves — tiny clustered red sprouts from the tips of bare branches. I see the fig leaves, bursting emerald fingers at the end of thick elephant grey branches. The lemons are ripening and pink blossoms budding. The birds are gathering, crows, blackbirds and magpies ready to mate and create a raucous nursery condo in our towering pine. The feral cat is pregnant… again. Two from her last litter — teenagers — think that wild means being fed every day and not saying thanks.

I just got back from three months in England, with my sons who I hadn’t seen for two years through the lockdown. We hugged, laughed, cooked, walked, created, played music, worked, and reminisced. Memories of days gone by. It has been a blink.

The funny thing? The epiphany? I don’t believe I am any different from 99.9% of the world population in wanting love and kindness, peace and yet we are on the cusp of nuclear or ecological annihilation or both. And we are debating if it’s real and who is at fault. That’s funny. Sadly.

This moment counts. I want to be in it. With all my heart and all my soul. Today, I am neither Russian nor Ukrainian. Neither Greek nor Canadian. I am human. My challenges will come, some have come and gone, some remain. Right now amidst it all, I see life bursting forth — springing forth. Life goes on, indifferent to the folly of our small thinking and rash actions.

The sun is casting shadows of dancing branches on the walls in the garden. I am mindful that they are silhouettes. Not the tree itself. I am reminded of the atomic bomb and the shadows of those evaporated while doing the most mundane of living tasks. Were they loving life … just before?

I am looking at my own shadow and marvel at the richness and beauty of this life. Its brevity and my place in it. Have I added to its richness?

I can’t stop this war. I can’t stop the extinction of animals and the decimation of forests. But I can change my heart and my perspective and see that every thought and choice I make reflects in my life and casts ripples who knows how far?

I mean to create my life anew each day. To let LIFE surge through me in waves of expression. To LIVE until I die. To keep my focus on love and beauty and compassion and bring these to every challenge I face so that joy and gratitude are the last shadows others may see of me when I am gone. Poof!