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Summer’s End (July)

Today I feel the ache of summer’s mortality, as July blazes out in a crescendo of sun and heat and humidity and I can feel in my skin that suddenly more summer is behind us than in front of us.

The gift of awareness comes with the awareness of death and this gift is harder to receive. On the most perfect days it whispers reminders that this moment is fleeting, already almost gone.


My lifetime.

Even our species’ collective gasp of lifespan on our rare little planet.

I worry about the planet a lot these days. I’m sure you do too. It’s different reading about it on the internet than having an embodied experience of an ecosystem spinning out of order.

This is tangible. Visceral.

The moon turns to blood like the last days, orange with smoke of Canadian wildfires. The hazy air is dangerous for my lungs.

The sun burns through the summer sky and cures my winter depression and my body feels good for the first time all year but the thermometer should not read 90 this many days in a row, not here in Minnesota.

The heat is ominous.

We are wearing masks in stores because a pandemic is still happening and our species has shown itself absolutely helpless to get its shit together. Everything is falling apart.

Theological people like to say that “apocalypse” means showing how things really are, but some days it feels more like the cresting arc of a lifespan, like every other organism in the world, like the stars themselves, we have danced our few notes with the universe and now we are slipping away.


My lifespan.

Our species, alive and conscious on this rare and beautiful earth.


I once believed that the earth would be redeemed, that life promised life again, that this conscious experience was just the beginning. I believed that somehow I would shake loose the constraints of time and become immortal while still maintaining the identity and awareness I call me. I believed that the end of the world was the beginning of heaven.

I believed that we had all the time in the world, in the world to come.

I cannot count on any of that anymore.

Now I believe there is no God but everything, there is no heaven but earth, there is no soul but the consciousness emerging from the organism I call me.

I surrender to the universe as it is, not as I wish it to be. I seek to understand the heart of what is Real — what I once called “God” — and to live in harmony with it.

I repent of the idol of theism, of making God in my image and worshipping the Creator instead of the uncreated.

I return from the far country of ideas about a Father in Heaven I learned from a book, and I find my place among the children of the Earth. .


The Book of 1 John says to love not the world, neither the things that are in the world, because the world and all that is in it is passing away.

I don’t care.

Given a choice between heaven and earth, I choose earth every time. I choose what is real, this world, this existence, this moment.

I choose this doomed planet in all its suffering and wonder, in all its tragic fleeting beauty.

I cannot do anything else.

I am a creature of the earth. It belongs to me, and I belong to it.

I cast my lot with the trees and the skies and the sunlight on my skin, with this remarkable planet and this lonely Milky Way and this mysterious universe that is becoming aware in our own bodies.

When I was a Christian, I was told that the hope of an afterlife was the only thing that made this life meaningful. But as I have sought what is Real (what I once called “God”) I have found no foundation strong enough to support the hope of heaven for me.

Like so many other things I believed, my curiosity led me to the end of my belief in Heaven as such, and I was forced to confront my mortality. I had to stop telling myself a story of unique human immortality and return to my place with the cycle of life and death, with the trees and mammals and every other organism and even the stars.

But to my surprise, I have not found the loss of heaven to be inevitable, unbearable nihilism.

What I have found is that when I contemplate the brevity of my rare and fleeing consciousness, I am filled with gratitude and also, sadness. Consciousness is a gift, and so is consciousness of my own mortality. Gratitude and sadness are both the same emotion, just different expressions. Together they tell me that this life is meaningful, and so very precious.

I know that one day I will set down my pen and close my eyes and it will be the last time, and I ache for the sadness of that moment. I long to awaken again and again and behold this world forever.

I cannot.

The ache tells me how precious it is; my inevitable non-being urges me to breathe deeply of this universe while there is still breath inside my body.

Summer is more than half over. I feel it in the hot, heavy air of a July sunset.

I am dying.

Slowly (I hope) but dying all the same.

I don’t know how many more habitable years this planet has left, or what it means to stare into the face of a self-inflicted extinction-level event.

I am sad about all of this.

But I am grateful, so grateful for this moment. I’m grateful for the July sun on my shoulders, the orange moon in the sky, and another day on this weary planet.

I am grateful for consciousness.

And though I hate the heavy sensation of it in my chest, I am grateful for the ache that reminds me how precious it all is.




This is Part 1 of a two-part series called “Summer’s End”, taken from the pages of my journals from the summer months of 2021. I’ve also adapted it into podcast episode by the same name.

Read Part 2 here: Summer’s End (August).

Listen to Summer’s End on Existential Happy Hour wherever you get your podcasts. 

published July 24, 2021

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