“Breathing easily and fully is one of the basic pleasures of being alive. The pleasure is clearly experienced at the end of expiration when the descending wave fills the pelvis with a delicious sensation. In adults this sensation has a sexual quality, though it does not induce any genital feeling. The slight backward and forward movements of the pelvis, similar to the sexual movements, add to the pleasure. Though the rhythm of breathing is pronounced in the pelvic area, it is at the same time experienced by the total body as a feeling of fluidity, softness, lightness and excitement.”
― Alexander Lowen, The Voice of the Body
“Breathing involves a continual oscillation between exhaling and inhaling, offering ourselves to the world at one moment and drawing the world into ourselves at the next…”
― David Abram, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology
While modern science provides us with several instances that prove the existence of life in all forms on planet Earth, ancient Jewish mythological tradition highlights human life as the centerpiece of one of its creation stories. It especially focuses on how some mighty powers (take note: it is in the plural as the Hebrew word elohim–which is erroneously translated as “god”–is in the plural) bestowed life on adam (humanity) by “breathing into his nostrils the breath of life, and humanity became a living creature.” The theopoetical (take note: not theological) implication of this mythological (take note: not historical) story is the existentially fascinating connection of life and breath. The most obvious substantiation of life on Earth is hence in the presence of breathing physico-chemical entities (called animals which include human beings). We spontaneously breathe the “breath of life” as we naturally draw it from the atmospheric source which right at the very beginning of the Jewish mythological story is called ruach elohim, i.e., “air or wind emanating from mighty sources” (again, erroneously translated as “the spirit of god”). Quoting a portion of my essay “On Spirituality” (https://ruelfpepa.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/on-spirituality/)
“A more detailed study of the Hebrew concept of ruach leads us to its most basic meanings as ¨wind,¨ ¨air,¨ and ¨breath¨ which is not alien to the concept of force, power and energy. Whether we take it theistically as in the Jewish scripture or non-theistically/atheistically by a semantic understanding, ruach in the physico-naturalistic sense as breath, wind or air, or in the philosophico-metaphorical sense as spirit (i.e., force, power, energy), one incontrovertible issue stands out and that is the fact that ruach as such is necessarily connected with life. The spirit is therefore not only life-giving but may logically be construed as life itself for life manifests energy. In contrast with this conception is a life that treads the path of death while its energy is fading away.”
The whole scenario creates the notion of how life is inextricably connected with breathing: a uniquely special process that may only be realized in the context of a natural atmosphere which provides the suitable air we ought to breathe to sustain life. This is the joy of breathing. We along with the rest of the living organisms on Earth are alive because we are located on a livable planet that sustains us with “the breath of life” provided by the Earth’s atmosphere. This particular notion further leads us to the realization that earthly life is inextricably connected with the ecological mechanics and dynamics that constitute the very source of the life we breathe. With this thought in mind, what becomes crucially important is not only human life or the lives of the rest of the living organisms but more so, the “living” Earth itself (or herself, if you will) that sustains the very “breath of life” we all have.
There is joy in breathing as long as we breathe the proper and health-giving air in the Earth’s atmosphere. Such joy in breathing is the very essence of spirituality we have thematized in our consciousness to signify the worth of life–both human and non-human–on Earth. In other words, our spirituality is basically grounded on the principle that we are lovers of life. Again, from my “On Spirituality”:
“A spiritual life is an energetic life. In this sense, spirituality is more meaningfully understood in its inalienable correlation with life itself. Further stretching this line of thought brings us to the notion that spirituality is life-promoting, life-loving, life-appreciating, life-empowering, life-preserving. A spiritual person is therefore a committed defender of life.”
This is the heart of spirituality limelighted in the ancient Jewish theopoetical mythology that connects and identifies “breath” and “air” with the spirit. Life is spirit because this spirit is the very breath of life breathed into the living organisms through the life-giving atmosphere which in the ecological sense could be symbolically construed as the overpowering deity called Gaia in pagan mythologies much more ancient than the Jewish tradition.
But breathing in certain parts of the planet may no longer be joyful in this age as we have continually been witnessing the wanton destruction of the Earth’s atmosphere. Pollution in all forms has been wrecking havoc not only in the air we breathe but likewise on the Earth’s terrain and water systems. The entirety of our planet’s ecological system is in peril. Despite the technological discoveries, inventions and innovations the age of industrialization has generated on the one hand to make human labor much more convenient than in the preceding age, it’s most serious downside on the other hand is “the culture of death” reflected in the horrible enviromental destruction it has unabashedly perpetrated.
Let me end this treatise with a short passage I wrote some years back, “The Earth is Alive” (http://originalblessing.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-earth-is-alive?xg_source=activity):
1.0 The Earth is alive . . . yet.
1.1 The Earth is alive and yet she is in a very serious condition.
1.2 The Earth is alive, yet she is likewise dying.
1.3 The Earth is dying and unless we do something imminent at this point in time, we shall surely perish with her.
2.0 This is the most pressing and present reality we face in the 21st century. Unless we reverse this tragic flow of events, we are heading toward disaster.
2.1 A foreboding atmosphere of impending devastation dominates the landscape for we have gradually systematically poisoned the Earth: prevalent pollutions of the air and waters; holes in the ozone layer; massive destruction of the flora and fauna. We—Earth and humans—are in the worst of times.
2.2 Through generations, we have failed to acknowledge the fact that the Earth is a living Super-Organism—a macro-mirror of our own delicate humanity that should have been taken extra care of with the best of our tenderness and protected with the resoluteness of a kindred spirit always ready to defend one of its flesh and blood.
2.3 The Earth has always faithfully sustained the most basic of our needs, wishes and desires. The Earth has constantly been a trustworthy patron of our sacred humanity making her the source of that very sacredness.
3.0 Yet, we have not positively responded to her loving kindness with sincere gratitude. Instead, we have become purveyors of abuses and exploitative acts. In the modern era, humanity has declared war against nature.
3.1 In the process, modern technology has been harnessed for exploitative purposes leading to heavy environmental devastations and ecological imbalance to the detriment of the human species.
3.2 In the final analysis, we humans are at the losing end.
4.0 Now is the most fitting moment to reconcile with nature.
4.1 Now is the most proper chance for us to bow down in humility and accept the magnitude of our misdoings with repentant hearts and total mindfulness of a new worldview that will at last redeem us from the mire of an impending destruction.
4.2 Now is the era of a new world order pushed and carried by a responsible humanity with all the willingness to renew what is yet renewable on Earth.
5.0 The challenge before us therefore is to work together and let a new Earth—now an eco-system where humanity becomes a part of nature—evolve and metamorphose to create a new humanity that does not only appreciate the spiritual but also the natural for they are not two but a unity.
Then and only then can we fully experience in a genuine sense joy in breathing.
(c) Ruel F. Pepa, 25 February 2015