Miracles, in the sense of phenomena we cannot explain, surround us on every hand:
life itself is the miracle of miracles. ~ George Bernard Shaw
Yesterday I rewatched Episode 1 of National Geographic’s One Strange Rock on Disney+. It’s called “Gasp” and it’s about the mostly unnoticed everyday and every day miracles of how the atmosphere protects us, of oxygen and lungs, and of how the entire earth system operates as One. I highly recommend it.
First, a few highlights with credit to NASA.
- Sixteen is the average number of breaths a human takes each minute. Using that average number, I calculated how many breaths I have taken since I was born. It comes to approximately 675,250,000 breaths so far.
- We could not exist without The Thin Blue Line of Earth’s atmosphere. Earth’s atmosphere extends out to somewhere around 50-62 miles above sea level. Yet, the highest recorded permanently tolerable altitude for breathing, the highest permanent human settlement known, La Rinconada, Peru, is at 16,700 feet or 3.2 miles above sea level. Thus, at this time, 3.2 miles above sea level is the highest altitude for human life to exist on it’s own!
- The percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere is a stable 20.94%. 350,000,000 years ago the amount of oxygen in earth’s atmosphere was 20%. During the time in between then and now there have been some variations – some not hospitable to human life – but apparently the percentage always returns to 20.94% which, obviously, is hospitable to human life. So then I wondered, “Well, what about just the last 100 years?” A hundred years ago, in 1923, the population of the earth was just under 2 billion. Today it is over 8 billion. Still, even with more than 4x as many humans breathing the air and actively interacting with it in other ways, the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere has remained stable. How does that work?
Think about this: We have a stable Thin Blue Line that supports us even amidst all we are witnessing and fearfully anticipating of almost daily natural disasters; supports us amidst the foreboding glimpses of a future of global heating and the climate emergency. Alternatively, when we stay in the present and breathe, we are able to appreciate the mystery and the miracle of life and its freely offered abundance where there’s enough for everyone! Every breath is a gift.
Secondly, here is a poem I wrote a few years ago.
Who is the breather?
It just seems to happen.
It seems more like
We are being breathed.
Breathed by life.
Alive by breath.
Our breathing connects us.
Shows us our interrelatedness.
Shows us our place in the web of life.
In breath alone
There is purpose.
In breath alone
There is reason for
Offering what we can.
Earth limb and
The Thin Blue Line
of our atmosphere