At the top of my extremely short list of what I’ve absolutely loved about this global pandemic? My ritualized evening walks with my amazing son, Ezra Star.*
Our walks have evolved this past year, alongside the seasons, and our rapidly evolving hearts.
Last spring and summer he mostly accompanied me by bike, weaving in and around me and the dogs, speeding up far ahead of us, and then looping back, breathless and beaming, to ride beside me again.
Lately, he’s taken to jump-roping next to me for the entire two-mile walk. Sometimes he runs up the hill, while speed-jump-roping the entire time. My sweet boy who misses his old athletic life so much, sometimes it brings him to tears when he thinks of it.
Usually Ezra has me count his jumps. We stop in the middle of the road, and he names his intention: 240 jumps. And I say with astonishment, “Seriously, you can do 240?” And he nods, smiling assuredly, saying, “Sure can, Mom.”
Then I count by tens, until he makes it to his goal, or until he messes up, and has to start over. Sometimes he asks me to check his pulse in his neck, to confirm how hard his heart is working. He loves my presence, my witness, my amazement, my praise.
Sometimes, when he’s in the mood, we’ll drop into a deep dialogue, while I walk, and he jumps along beside me. He’s quite the philosopher, this guy. He has a lot to ponder and consider.
Last night as I strolled along through the dusk-lit streets with the dogs, and Ezra jump-rope-walked beside me, he suddenly put it out there casually, “So Mom, if humans were to go extinct, how do you imagine it would happen?”
Just another simple, easy topic to accompany our evening stroll. ?
“Hmmm,” I responded slowly. “Well, I can think of a few ways. Can you?”
He nodded right away. Clearly, he’d been thinking about this quite a bit already.
“Do you want to list them off?” I asked, imagining he might be wanting to get them off his chest.
“Sure,” he replied readily. And then he plunged in, almost as though we were discussing a myriad of options for Spring Break.
He said, “Well, a more severe global pandemic could certainly do it. Like Covid, but way worse. Like one that really killed off pretty much everyone?”
“Right, that could certainly do it,” I replied in agreement, taking long strides beside his jumping ones.
“And…” Ezra continued, “Climate change, which really could cause endless natural disasters, like more tsunamis and hurricanes and wild fires. And just the world getting too hot for humans to survive in?” Ezra glanced over at me, checking in.
I looked over at him soberly, from my center. “True,” I agreed, “That’s one scary possibility we are really facing as a species right now, isn’t it…?”
“World hunger?” he continued. “All of us starving to death. Maybe that one goes with climate change?” He stopped in the road for a moment, and shuddered, imagining it: the entire world starving. He added, “I really, really hope that doesn’t happen.”
He began to speed-jump-rope a couple dozen jumps, then, slightly breathless, continued with his list: “A meteorite, hitting the earth, taking us all out in a matter of moments, like the dinosaurs.”
I agreed evenly, “Right…I mean, it could happen.”
He said, “Or even, like, the sun? Couldn’t it get too close to the earth, and just burn us up and melt us?”
I laughed, “Hmmm… I’m not sure about that one. You mean, like solar flares? I think they’ve proven those can’t actually hurt us. I think they could take out our power grids, or our internet, but that’s about it.”
Ezra stopped in the road, his jaw dropped in horror: “Take out our INTERNET?! That would be seriously tragic, Mom.” We both cracked up.
Then a momentary tangent arose, in which Ezra considered the likelihood of other sentient life-forms, on other planets, in other worlds. He fantasized, “I bet they’re a lot like us, but just wiser. Like, I bet they’re way more evolved, like the beings in ‘Avatar’, and I bet their planet is way less flimsy.”
I guffawed: “Flimsy?! Who you are calling flimsy? Mother Earth?”
Ezra giggled at my reaction. He corrected himself, “Well maybe she’s not flimsy. But she does seem pretty delicate.”
I challenged him: “Are you sure you don’t mean that the human species seems delicate? I guarantee you, even if the human species goes extinct, Mother Earth will be just fine.”
Ezra shrugged, then said, “I dunno. Even planets come and go, Mom.”
I let this in. Wisdom from the ancient ancestor within my boy: Even planets come and go.
Then, eagerly returning to his cheery list, he added, “Nuclear war. Or even biological warfare. Humans could easily extinct ourselves, just from stupidity and hatred and greed.”
He named all this with such succinct sobriety, and my heart ached to feel what this relatively sheltered, privileged child holds and carries in his heart, simply in being a conscious, aware citizen of planet Earth.
I took a deep breath, deciding that this was probably a good segue into anchoring in some medicine of The Good Dream.
I said, “So, my love, excellent job naming off the top contenders for human extinction.”
Ezra did a little bow in the street, “Thank you, thank you very much.”
I continued, “But how about now, let’s imagine the brighter possibilities for our species? Like, what would be some of the most astonishingly beautiful ways that it could all go?”
Ezra seemed surprised by the question. He repeated, “…astonishingly beautiful ways it could all go??”
“Yes,” I continued, “We just fully imagined the nightmare. So what’s the good dream we can give our hearts and prayers towards?”
Ezra was quiet, thinking. He jump-roped along next to me, quieter than he’d been for the whole walk.
Finally he responded, “Well? World peace is the good dream. Which would basically mean a huge awakening, all over the world. Everyone waking up to love.”
I got excited: “YES. How could that happen, I wonder?”
He shrugged, seemingly a bit skeptical, “I’m not sure. Maybe like, instead of a meteorite hitting our planet, something else could hit our planet, causing everyone to wake up?”
I wondered, “What would happen if even just a whole lot of people all wake up?”
He thought about this carefully, then said, “Well, then we wouldn’t go to war anymore. No bombs, or biological warfare. Nobody would want to hurt other people.”
I nodded in agreement, “Right, there would be widespread intelligence, empathy and compassion.”
Ezra agreed, “And we’d also have the wisdom to try and fix the climate change issue, before it’s too late.”
Then he added with worry in his voice, “Is it already too late, Mom?”
“Hmmm…” I considered, “I’d saying it’s getting pretty close, but it’s still not too late to make a big difference.”
Then I saw Ezra’s chest lift with some semblance of hope, his face brightening in the dusk light, as he said excitedly, “Then we could figure out a way to get everyone what they need, like all the homeless people wouldn’t be homeless anymore. They’d have all the money, and food, and clothes and houses that they needed.”
“That’s beautiful, love.” I agreed.
“And we would be too awake to do stupid things like killing the elephants, and the lions, and the whales.”
Then he added with ferocity, “…too awake to do stupid things like dumping trash into the oceans?!”
“Hmmm, yes, so true.” I said. “With wisdom comes foresight, and right action, and self-responsibility, and a deep respect for all beings.”
Then he stopped and looked at me, “Mom, did you know that elephants are like, some of the most awakened beings in the world? I was watching a youtube about it.”
I smiled, “I didn’t know that about elephants, but I’m not surprised. They do seem very wise and kind and special.”
Ezra chuckled, and imagined out loud, “In my good dream, ELEPHANTS rule the world.”
We both laughed, imagining that.
Then he stopped in his tracks and said, “Ok, will you count now?”
I stopped and faced him: “Sure. How many?”
He took a deep breath, and announced, “I’m shooting for 300 this time.”
“Seriously, 300?” I asked, looking astounded.
He smiled wide, and said assuredly, “Oh, just watch me.”
So I watched him and counted each jump carefully, as he challenged himself to meet his own expanding intentions.
Then I witnessed us both, standing together awakened in love, in the cold, dark night of late winter, honest and brave, as we openly faced the bad dream, while ushering forth the good one.
*Shared with permission from my son, Ezra Star.