I thought I ought to pull out an old column I wrote about seven or eight years ago. I use it often as a starting point for my meditation.
This just in from physicist Paul G. Hewitt: every breath you exhale sends out about 10 sextillion molecules of air. Your breath takes about six years to travel throughout the earth's atmosphere. But that's not just your breath you spewed out. Once your breath is mixed with all the rest of the air, about one molecule of your breath will be drawn into every person in the future.
This means that there is something here, all around us, of everyone we have ever loved. Even though we can't see it, touch it or smell it --it sustains us. Somewhere, here and there, all around the world, the breaths of my late mother, of my grandparents and great-grandparents, of all the friends and lovers I lost to AIDS, are all circulating, giving life to all the living things that came after them.
There is something both overwhelmingly powerful and beautifully simple about knowing this, knowing that anyone who ever meant anything to you lives on in such a way. And what of all the people we never knew? The breath of every man, woman and child who died in the death camps feeds our lungs. Every African who died during the Middle Passage, every untold story of pain and suffering, of joy and triumph, passes in and out of our bodies, and on to the next person, and the next, and the next. We are all part of something even when we think we are not. Pass it on.