Note: This is part of a collaboration between the Patheos Pagan channel and an assortment of other Patheos bloggers. I paired up with the Reverend Sam Alexander, who blogs over at Christianity For the Spiritual But Not Religious. He’s been writing a beautiful series of love letters to a variety of recipients this October, and as part of my own exploration of my ancestors, I wanted to take a page from his book (as it were). So I will be writing three love letters to some of my ancestors this Samhain season; this is the first. ****************
To My Human Ancestors,
When most of my fellow pagans speak of “ancestors”, it’s you they’re thinking of. From my grandparents, great-grandparents, great-greats, and so on, all the way to Mitochondrial Eve, you are my extended family of Homo sapiens sapiens. I want to acknowledge all of you, not just those from whose direct lineage I descend, but every single one of that greater tree branching ever outward, with some branches dead-ending through the years, and other still struggling to put forth new foliage each spring (and summer, and fall, and winter; at seven billion and counting, we are quite prolific.) The 100,000 years or so our species has been around is barely a heartbeat in the time of the entire Earth, but let’s tunnel-vision just a bit on us, shall we?
As much as I mourn the destructive manifestations of our behaviors, I also have to admit that we’ve done some pretty impressive things. Or, rather, you all have. I’m still writing my story, so I’m waiting to see whether I consider myself up to the challenge of making the most of my humanity. See, I don’t consider our technological prowess to be “unnatural”. These big, squishy brains we have? That’s part of our evolutionary heritage, how we adapted to meet the risks and dangers inherent to being a living fleshy animal-type being. We just got really damned good at nest-building and making ourselves cozy.
And if I set aside my frustrations for just a moment, I can be utterly wowed by what we’ve accomplished. We put a man on the moon. On the moon, well over 200,000 miles away, that silver orb we’ve been staring at up in the sky for millions of years, as we danced and fished and swam in its tides. And we eradicated a disease that killed so many of us (no, we don’t miss you, Smallpox.) And we figured out how to fashion our own images in a variety of materials, from the earthy to the abstract to the downright arcane. Plus how about that Higgs-Boson, hey?
It took the collective will of an entire species to make that happen. I’m making it happen. Even if my hand never touches a particle accelorator or chisels fine marble to replicate careful muscular detail, I am a part of that zeitgeist. I am a part of that movement forward, leaping and splashing and edging ever closer to a horizon that never seems to quite get here, but which throws off some pretty lovely sunsets as we go along.
And I couldn’t be here without you. Not even those of you who only had a few breaths on this planet before leaving again. Not even those whose relation to me is as far as it can be between two members of the same species. We are one vast web intertwined, the present being woven on the needles, stitches catching and being dropped, the past being the extended length of cloth behind, draped over the table and piled on the floor. Even if a few fibers of a brief life were missing, they’d change the look of the entire piece through their absence.
I only get these few minutes in the sun on this planet before I, too, will be gone again, off to join you wherever it is ancestors may be, whether an afterlife or memory or oblivion. So let me do you proud. Let me appreciate all the accumulated moments, days, years, centuries that you gathered together before I arrived and to which I am adding as we speak. Let me be worthy of that legacy.