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Reply To: The Air We Breathe


Mary, Nandu, and Pilgrim1, 

My mind is blown by the substance and depth of your observations!

Those of us who contribute to the MythBlast series have often wondered, in the absence of feedback, how our words are received. Ideally, we’d like to think readers don’t take our contributions as the final word from on high (we are all just students and seekers), but as a launching pad for further thought and reflections of their own. Thank you for confirming that healthy suspicion and furthering the conversation. I trust that those who visit this thread but are reluctant to actively participate will still benefit from your contributions to the discussion!

Thank you Pilgrim1 for amplifying and expanding on this metaphor. I especially appreciate how your scientific observations actually strengthen the power and poignancy of the metaphorical significance of breath: “Every breath is an affirmation of our connection with all other living things, a renewal of our link with our ancestors and a contribution to generations yet to come.” 

Your final paragraph really brings that home!

And Mary, thank you for the reminder that Breath is not only a common thread in the global crises we face today, but an effective tool for finding balance (sitting in meditation and following your breath) amid the turbulence and turmoil. I’ll address that further in a subsequent post, but I’m bumping up against my annual optometrist’s appointment (we will both be masked).

Nandu – I have such tremendous empathy for what you and your country are experiencing. It certainly strikes a chord: if you have followed what’s been happening in the United States, you may have noticed some of our leaders, too, “still make bombastic statements, but they have started to sound hollow of late.” I am impressed with how you are implementing your changing understanding within your profession – and I am tantalized by this tidbit you dropped:

BTW, this has forced me to reevaluate my understanding of Indian myth. So far, I was seeing it from the viewpoint of an upper-caste Hindu. But the moment the POV is changed, the myth also changes. But that is another topic altogether!

I do hope you’ll open a discussion in the not-too-distant future on this intriguing subject.

Given MythBlast publishing deadlines, I delivered this essay at the end of the first week of May, roughly three weeks before George Floyd’s tragic death. His last words, “I can’t breathe!” – also the last words of Eric Garner in 2014, and half a dozen other Black men who died of asphyxiation between 2018 and 2020 while under arrest – have become the rallying cry of nationwide protests that have triggered a huge, unanticipated cultural shift in the conversation on race in the United States.

Though we’ve heard those words before, it seems this time most of the nation was actually paying attention (fewer distractions, given the pause in work and travel and leisure-time activities for so many of us). Breath is such a potent archetypal image because it is ubiquitous and NOT determined by race – no one survives outside the womb without it – which may be why Floyd’s death has lifted the veil for so many.

Have to confess I can’t help but marvel at how the archetypal imagery of Breath resonates through three of the major collective crises facing us in this moment.

More to come . . .