The usual depiction of the titan Atlas, carrying the weight of the celestial sphere, is a classical view of the mighty power required to sustain the balance between the heavens and the earth. It is an heroic act, possible only to someone superhuman, huge, bold and brave. It implies immense effort, enormous responsibility. It is important, necessary work.
On an individual human level, though, have we anything to do with sustaining the universe, or is this better left to the gods? Recently, I have been involved in the restoration of a communal garden. Along with other gardening enthusiasts, we have been addressing the needs of a sadly ignored little green space, once loved and now, until recently, rather neglected and sad. It is a small plot and not very many people will ever see it, but digging around in the dirt on a Sunday morning, it occurred to me that something of value was being added for the betterment of everyone. Toiling in the humidity towards something lovely in the midst of a sea of concrete – this is a worthy effort, even if the actions involved are anything but heroic and may go unnoticed. As unlikely as it may seem, this is labor towards a greater good.
What does it mean to do your part? Singing in a group, studying the music so that you can create together an ephemeral moment of pleasure, sharing works of creative genius – making music is holding up the sky. Sitting patiently to teach a new skill – knitting, or reading, or chess – to someone who is trying hard to learn – passing on knowledge is holding up the sky. Taking time, however long, to make something with your hands – traditional crafts, slow cooking, these are holding up the sky.
Thinking about what sustains the harmony of the sacred and profane in my own world, it isn’t the monumental actions of nations or the fearless deeds of great men, although I honor the advocates who overturn unjust laws and fight for the disenfranchised. Rather, my scale is more intimate and involves the generosity and kindness of others, and mindful choices about where and how to use my time. In a world of Insta-everything, being conscious of the value of sharing and its impact, and taking time – these are holding up my little corner of the sky, for which, gray or blue, I am grateful.
©Poets Sinews, 2015. Reuse with permission.