The Raft of Life

We emerge, by a miracle, out of the black depths of oblivion from un-being to being. One sperm, out of one hundred million, fertilizes one egg from the supply created by a woman in her lifetime; if any one of the other millions of sperm made contact with that egg, we would not be born.

Through the miracle of conception and creation we are fed and nurtured in the darkness of the womb, until we are ready to emerge; to come aboard the Raft of Life, afloat on the River of Life, with our spirit, self, or soul in place From our first day in the light we start to learn about ourselves, about our family, our kin, our clan, our tribe, and our race. Little by little we acquire the greatest of human skills, language. Without formal teaching we learn how to use nouns, verbs, and the other elements that constitute the complicated structures of speech. We learn the word order of sentences by listening and repeating.

Our journey on the Raft of Life may be, as it has been for countless billions, very short. Many will never know anything but hardship, hunger, pain. Others will live for seven decades or more; they will see the beauty of the world, in nature and art. They will hear the music of great musicians, and be given the greatest of gifts, the freedom to think and to speak for themselves.

On the Raft of Life we meet a small number of the many millions who share the Raft with us. Sometimes we live in harmony with them, sometimes we don’t. War, the man said, is the locomotive of history. Mankind is constantly at war, on pretexts valid or invalid, and much of the wealth of the world, human and material, has been spent and squandered in the pursuit of the short-lived gains of war.

During our time on the Raft we learn skills; the first imperative is to find enough to eat, every day, which keeps our body temperature at the necessary 98.6c. The aborigine in Australia and the bushman of Africa find their food by picking, by digging, by knowing where the wealth of their terrain is kept. In more advanced societies we are taught how to use our hands and our minds, in order to fill a role in our society that will provide us with the means to purchase our needs: a roof over our heads, and the food to keep us alive.

But whether we succeed or fail, the Raft moves on. When we came aboard the Raft, we were introduced to the generation before ours and maybe some members of the generation before that. As time goes on we ourselves become the principal generation. We are then the ones who create and teach the next generation. When that task is complete, we move aside, we make room for the next principal generation.

If we are lucky, this period of senior status will allow us to enjoy the company of our offspring; to marvel at the wonders of the world, to smell the lilac. Many of us live a serene and fulfilled old age: others have long since succumbed to cancer or to any of the other scourges that beset humanity: debilitating diseases, or simply the loss of the will to live.

But the time comes, as surely as night follows day, when our days on the Raft draw to a close. We then slip off the comforting familiarity of the Raft of Life, and drop back into the welcoming oblivion of the slow-moving River of Life. The Raft moves further and further away from us, until we are remembered by only a small number of Raft dwellers: remembered for our deeds, good or bad, for the love we gave and received, for our kindness to others, for our legacy of goodness. All else is trivia.

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