The squirrel scampered up the tree near the living room window, then inched downward and peered towards the glass. He seemingly looked me in the eye and stared for possibly a minute. The creature lost interest then leapt to the ground and lingered on the driveway just within my field of vision.
I know the squirrel probably could not actually see me because I’ve examined the window from the outside during daylight. Objects within the house are not visible beyond about six-inches from the window pane. Then I wondered if the squirrel possessed super-vision. Maybe the rodent’s physical eye structure enabled him to see through the reflective glass. Or perhaps the glass reflected his image. Or possibly the reflection of another object caught his attention. I pondered the scenario for a few more minutes before shrugging it off as just another ephemeral situation.
The recollection of the humorous squirrel activity yesterday is a creation of memory. Memory itself is an ephemeral activity. The brain’s activity assembles bits and pieces of mental data into a coherent, cohesive mental construct that we interpret as recalling a specific event or string of events. The brain can compress the elapsed time of the scenario into convenient capsulized form. For example, altogether, the squirrel incident took place within a time-span of approximately three-minutes. Later, my memory of the event “played back” in only a few seconds. The squirrel’s antics were real, but my memory of them is ephemeral.
Our lives and other people’s memories of them are ephemeral. Two nights ago, dad appeared in one of my dreams. Both of us were attending some type of teacher/pupil conference. Dad appeared as a 40-something man and I appeared as the person I am now–over 60. Dad still behaved as my parent and guardian as he evaluated a stack of my homework papers. The dream was an illusion because dad has been deceased for some time now. The entire dream was ephemeral. The images seemed real, but they were rooted in snippets of past events that had vanished long ago.
When we look upon our own lives, we notice that our past success, failures, friendships, wealth, fragments of public esteem, childhood, adolescence, and so forth are ephemeral manifestations. Someday, we will pass away as well. Although there may be a few survivors who knew us first-hand, eventually, they too will pass away. Understanding and accepting the impermanance of our lives brings the opportunity to foster new wisdom.
When people see the real and recognize how ephemeral our lives are, we gain strength to bear social responsiblities yet feel free of the chains that bind us to the world.
As I tap out these words, the sounds of a distant thunderstorm echo through the still-dark early morning atmosphere. The turbulent cloud will eventually weaken and disappear. The cumulonimbus is just another epehemeral thing.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes novelist and poet, Vikram Seth. “Everyone sort of sees his own life and times as being ephemeral. One thinks that everything good or important that happened, happened in the past. But I think that seeing scenes that you are used to, but with the heightening effects of poetry, perhaps makes you value your life and times more than you might otherwise do.”