The Sleeping Giant

by | Aug 13, 2023

On the border between Chile and Argentina stands the Lanín volcano. A jewel of the Andean Mountain Range. For the Mapuche indigenous community that has traditionally inhabited the area, its name means “sleeping giant”. While today the volcano is dormant, its name alludes to a time when it – and other natural phenomena – ruled the earth. A time when natural forces roared with life, unpredictable and unrestrained. I wonder, what energies stir within the walls of the Lanín? What memories and secrets lodge in its foundations? What would happen if one day it chose to wake up?

From the banks of the river Chuimehuín, the volcano looks like a frescoed painting. My pulse beats to the rhythm of the currents, and the songs of kingfishers hiding in the branches of trees on the shore fill the sweet air. The scent of the araucaria trees in the adjacent fields make my nose tingle and in the midst of such serenity I cannot help but think of another sleeping giant: time. The giant of giants. Time in its full splendor is erratic and omnipotent. Everything it touches, it dominates.

We live in a paralyzing awareness of time. It guides our every decision and plunges us into a state of perpetual hurry. The anxiety of time haunts us, and even more so when the first signs of aging appear. However, beyond wrinkled hands and graying hair, there are other indicators of the passage of time that, strangely enough, do not provoke the same fear.

Today, a strange white patch clings onto the peak of the Lanin volcano. It is what remains of an ancient glacier that used to cover it entirely. It now shrinks a little more each day. This is one of many warning signs that our planet is deteriorating before our eyes. But we have the ability to reverse the clock in this regard. The waters that flow from the glacier drip into the river. The drops remind me of the ticking of a clock. Drip drop. Tic toc.

We see time as linear, with a set beginning and end. While that is true for us as individuals, it is not true for us as a species. Nor for the planet we live on. For the latter, time is a cycle and with each end comes a new beginning. For the earth, the turning of cycles marks a milestone in its natural course of evolution. it changes and fluctuates constantly, but its existence is never threatened. We, as a species, are much more fragile. The way we are spending our time, living lifestyles of high consumption and self-interest, is threatening the next cycle of our species. That is to say, the reckless behavior driven by our fear of time, is affecting the living conditions of future generations. So, how can we reconcile our desire to live full lives with the safeguarding of our common future? By ceasing to think of time as something that must be spent on doing what we want, and starting to see it as something to be invested, which can flourish in the future.

For what remains of this decade, we must make a more responsible use of our time. Stop using the threat of ephemeral time to justify our careless lifestyles, and learn to let go of the relentless and shameless pursuit of material wealth. For what remains of the decade, let’s fill our time meaningfully with the things that truly give our life purpose. Let’s decide to reclaim our time and live it at the same pace as that of our planet. Let’s use the time to plant seeds that can give way for a future in which our species can thrive on.

In the end, our time is our most prized possession. Let’s value it as such.

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