Raven Davis-Bailey, 16
Honorable Mention, 15-16 Age Group
Sacopee Valley High School
"The Miracle of Life"
To fully convey the moment that I wish to, I have to elaborate on what I perceive the quote is given to mean. I do not believe that the meaning of the quote stops at simply feeling empathy for someone. Although that would in itself be a miracle, there is a slightly deeper meaning than just empathy for one person. This would be empathy for all, understanding everyone in the world, what some would call enlightenment: to truly understand the existence of everyone at once through their own perspective. So I perceive this quote to truly mean there is no greater miracle that could exist than understanding humanity. That seems to have been the yearned-for knowledge of many throughout history.
The moment that I experienced which comes closest to the feeling of empathy, or even enlightenment, came at a time that isn’t that interesting. In fact, I was lying on the ground recovering from a ten-mile hike. I was on a week-long teen leadership camping trip with seven teens and two counselors. This feeling of near enlightenment started after the first long day of hiking, and continued throughout the trip. To give an explanation of what I felt is hard, but I will do the best I can. After ten miles of hiking I laid down under a tree, my shoulders were sore from carrying my fifty-pound backpack, and the relief was more than welcome. I closed my eyes and a feeling of wholeness took over me, it was an amazing feeling. I felt happy and connected to everyone around me. All feelings of ill-will were forgotten and replaced with those of good for all. It was a moment when even in my complete exhaustion I was lifted by everything around me. I can’t really explain it any better than that, it was as if I was being aided by the environment around me.
For the rest of the trip I appreciated everything around me, finding the greatest joy in the smallest of things. From a frog hopping around a lake, to successfully navigating treacherous rapids in our canoes. It was as if I was one with everything and everyone around me. It was less that I was looking through their eyes, but that we were the same eyes seeing the same things and trying to achieve the same goal. That goal was just to ensure the happiness of us all.
There are many reasons that I think I had this deeply moving experience. The first is indeed the environment I was in. Being outdoors allowed me, and all of us, to feel connected to the world in a way you don’t get in everyday life. We had no electronics, or any way of distracting ourselves from the world and each other. This was perhaps the largest blessing of all. The second factor was openness. I don’t think it is possible to feel at one with the environment if your mind is closed to other people, and indeed another’s point of view. I know it may not be possible to truly understand the views of a frog, but trying your best to see through its eyes is a good exercise in humility. And humility is something you need in order to feel so connected to the things around you. The final factor is not just the environment, but the human support that was present. No one I came in contact with was anything but loving and encouraging. I know I truly loved every person who I met within that span of time and I felt cherished in return. There may, after all, be some truth to the ever so popular saying “love conquers all.” But I do not think it is just romantic love. It is love that comes from passion and happiness.
So this miracle of which Thoreau writes is possible. In fact, all it took for me was some humility, a long hiking trip, and deep love for everything around me. The experience I had will live with me until the day I perish, and will always be a guiding experience in my life. The world is not something we should feel separated from but rather something of which we should feel a part. And if we are all part of the world, then we are all part of each other. All you have to do to experience this miracle is to truly realize that, within yourself.