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If you knew, for sure, that things were going to change next week, but you didn’t know how, would that make you more, or less anxious?

I suppose it might depend on whether there’s something you want that you don’t already have, or something you have that you don’t want to lose.

Neither of those really describe how I feel, but I will say I have been finding comfort lately in knowing the way things are today is not the way things will be tomorrow or the next day.

One could assume that means I’m not particularly happy with how things are now, but that is not the case. I’m just acutely aware change is one of the essential characteristics of life, and knowing and embracing is like an affirmation of life. I’m pleased and grateful to be on the ride, and to have the experiences, learn the lessons and gain the wisdom that goes along with it.

We use language indiscriminately. We say things like “I’m starving,” “I’m freezing,” “It’s killing me.” We don’t mean we’re literally dying. Mostly, it’s casual and harmless, but I’ve been noticing, lately, in my own reactions or lack thereof, I’m becoming desensitized by such statements to the point where I hardly pay attention to see if the person saying it might actually be in distress.

The study of biology tells us change is just one of the essential properties that distinguish living organisms from inanimate objects. The others are responsiveness, which refers to an organism’s ability to sense and respond to changes in its external environment; homeostasis, which refers to the organism’s ability to maintain a stable internal environment; metabolism, which describes how living organisms process energy on a cellular level; regulation, which refers to all the complex chemical processes and functions that take place within the organism; reproduction, which is the ability to form new cells or organisms; and heredity, which means that traits get passed along from one generation to the next.

Though some might word them differently, these, say biologists, are the essential properties of living things.

One might ask what about the people who have suffered neurological disruption or the ones locked away in some unreachable part of their brain, or the many others who cannot, or choose not to reproduce? Does this mean they are not to be counted among the living?

Of course not, because we are talking about what happens on a cellular level. It has nothing to do with having kids or moving your limbs, or other such external signs.

Perhaps more important than knowing what constitutes life is knowing what constitutes living. I’m talking here about what reaches our senses and makes impressions upon us as we go through our days. Are there meaningful conversations, not just about the tasks at hand, but about what you think and what you feel. Do you struggle to formulate it and put it into words, in earnest, and not just settle on emojis and other approximations? Is there laughter? I mean real laughter, not just the polite grins and repressed chuckles of the barely-engaged.

What about tears? Are there things that touch your emotions deeply enough to make you cry, whether in sadness, joy, or because you are overwhelmed? Are the aspects of nature noticed, such as the rising or setting of the sun, the surround-sounds or the fluctuations in the wind? Do the demands of friendship or family press upon you? Do you have time for problems and suffering? Is there love for a person, an animal, the planet? Is there a cause that fires you up, an activity that sparks you? Do you get excited?

With so much misery and hardship, and life and death on the line everywhere you turn, I would never presume to tell others how to live, or what it means to live, or what constitutes worthwhile living. There is, however, clearly a difference between being alive and being ALIVE! The one involves simply being here and the other is being here NOW.

In reality, change is constant. You can ride it or you can resist, but know that when things cease changing life, living stops.

Ojai native plant guide Lanny Kaufer will lead an herb walk at Arroyo Hondo Preserve located on the Gaviota Coast north of Santa Barbara on Saturday, July 20, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The walk will conclude with a direct-from-the-grower native plant sale hosted by Santa Barbara Natives (SBN), a native plant nursery founded by Arroyo Hondo Preserve manager John Warner.

Ron Colone

RON COLONE

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Ron Colone can be reached at ron.colone@gmail.com

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