I would venture to say that not every child is as lucky as I was to have had a parent continually and persistently ask me (and everyone who came to our home) the question, “Why are we here?”
Am I right?
Why is this lucky? And, why do I ask this question today?
Let me provide some context. My Dad, John Thomas Ammerman, was a self-taught naturalist.He was born and raised in a little town, where I was born and raised--Curwensville, PA. Population 3,000.
He spent his boyhood and most of his twenties “in the woods.” To me, it's a miracle that he came to town long enough to fall for my mother.
But fall for her he did, his “wildflower from Kerrmoor.” And, they married in August, well before Buck season.
There is no one on this earth now or ever who walked it with such gratitude as my Dad. He loved nature as his mother, counselor, teacher--and as himself. When he was 80, he told me, “I feel no different than an Oak tree.
Throughout my years of reason, my father would ask the question periodically, “Why are we here.” He would listen to my child heart answer, “to play in the woods.” He would listen to my teenage answer, “to make friends and have fun.” He would listen to my college days answer, “ to make the world a better place.”
He would ask anyone that came into our house, my college boyfriend included, and anyone who sat around our campfires when we would invite friends and relatives to join us in our outdoor adventures-- “Why are we here?” It was embarrassing!
Dad said that sometimes when he asked, people would get a real scared look on their face. Sometimes they would clam up, and other times they would wax philosophical. He always listened with interest to their response, cataloguing the qualitative research.
And then, if people would ask him, he would give his answer du jour.
I remember the answer he gave when I was a college student. And, it was very unsatisfying to me, but it made perfect sense too, given his background.
“We are here to reproduce!” What? “Oh Dad, that’s not why we are here, humans, that is--there has to be something beyond our biology! Beyond our sex drive, beyond the mundane!”
“Well, I’ve been walking in these woods all my life. I’ve been watching nature, the seasons for years. And, what I see is that life wants to insure that it continues. Look how many acorns fall! Look how many dandelion seeds are dispersed to the wind!”
It wasn’t until my father’s 87th year, on a November day which turned out to be three days before he died, that I asked him this question for the very last time.
He was sitting at the kitchen table, breathing with an oxygen mask and then he took it off to bid me goodbye since I was leaving to go back home after a weekend visit.
I hugged him, and then I said, “Dad, you’ve been going through quite a lot these last few months. I just want to ask you something before I go, “Why are we here?”
With no hesitation, he looked me straight in the eyes and he said, “To love...and don’t hold back.”
I ask you, am I lucky or what?
Why are we here? To Love--yourself, one another, the world. Life itself!
Join our band of artist/activists in Brazil during Spring Break--March 8 through 13.
Yo-eco ART Retreat! Love Your Life!