I’ve been listening to Stephen Hawkings ramble on about the universe lately. I think if introduced… we would be ultimate bros. He seems to have a sense of humor about serious matters and a tendency to be constantly mystified by things greater than himself. I’d like the two of us to rent out a private theater and watch Empire Strikes Back and Solaris and Metropolis and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Afterwards, we could take a long walk through one of Tennessee’s amazing parks and discuss colonizing Mars or if he ACTUALLY believes that there are live organisms existing in the center of massive stars. I’d want to dissect religion and science and man’s need for hope and man’s need for logic. I’d try to get him to make completely terrifying and immensely threatening points about the limitations of our knowledge of existance. I’d sit and wait for his own brilliance to “slip up” and accidentally reveal the answer to all things. On a hillside, like a wide eyed deer, I’d realize that that answer would not come. And the cosmos would be spinning it’s magical circles above my head and I would be laughing… in a lost sort of way. Because Hawkings knows nothing. In comparison to all that could be known; He knows so little. And for a minute I would pity him. And for a minute He would pity me. And we would wish upon a worm hole and all our dreams would not become true. He would still be confined to his broken body and so would I. No signal from space would be decoded into an eloquent hello letter from a distance universe. Mathematics based on large scale entities would still clash with the minuscule. And all we could do is try to revel in the fact that somethings may never be known. Some corners of the galaxy will always remain in the infinite shadow of dark matter. And in his controlled robot voice he would say to me: We might as well get over it and embrace the mystery.
When I was around 6 years old my mother asked me what time was. Maybe she was having an off day or maybe she was just trying to amuse herself on a long car ride with just the two of us. What is time? Turns out… this monstrous question laid down at the feet of my adolescent self because I apparently immediately answered her. “Time is change.” I mutter this response to her from my uncomfortably small car seat. She makes me repeat it. “Time is change.” It’s probably the only sensible thing I’ve ever said in my entire life.
Today is day full of 1’s (11/11/11) and I awoke thinking about my younger self. Starting at 21. The older I get… the more 21 gets stuck in my head. No weird hairs. No small gut you have to fight off like wild animals after the scent of an injured colleague. Everything was stupid and I pretended to know more than I did and love was hilarious and terrifying. Then high school. 16 I guess. I think I was a nice kid. I took pictures with my grandfather’s old camera. I cleaned land of broken trees for money. I smoked cigars at night and was nice to my friends and kind to girls I didn’t know. And then Jr. High. Everyone is lost. Everyone wants to be someone else. No one knows anything real about themselves and they take it out on each other. It’s like a social experiment gone horribly wrong. Before that was my parents creating a happy child hood for me. From 1 to 10ish I was Peter Pan. I was James and the Giant Peach. I was a savage creation that tore through the ice covered limbs of a Neverland that I myself created. Everything was a ray gun or a dinosaur bone or a mystic sign or a vampire tooth. Nothing was out of control. I would destroy or save entire universes and then come home safe and happy to my father’s jokes and my mother’s patience.
And nothing stops and no one has a say about it. We’re on a train that has derailed. It’s consistently increasing in speed and we sit by tiny, frosted windows and watch the monumental moments of our life fly by with no regard. The train runs through the walls of a small town and twenty years have gone by. An old man asks me for my ticket and my children are grown. I am grown. And the only consistent thread that runs through it all is that nothing ever stays the same. It’s always moving and changing. And the minute you think you have it under control… you realize that you are stranger in a strange land. And all I can encourage you to do is unbuckle your car seat, ask your mother to sit in the passenger seat, take the wheel, and love that strange land while you can.
What were you going to be when you grew up? When did you grow up? What occurrences occurred that kept you from that childhood goal? I wanted to be an archeologist. And I know you probably think that’s cute, but it wasn’t. I was pretty serious about the whole deal. I spent days digging massive holes in my back yard. Once they were big enough to hold me; I would jump down inside and wait. I assumed positioning myself inside one of these hand made craters could help my senses become keen. I assumed I would be able to sit underground and still myself. Hold my breath. And then? I’d simply KNOW the exact location of all lost treasures in my vicinity. I assumed I would be a sort of reverse light house that could shine extinct species into existence and then my grasp.
But we all know what assuming does and doesn’t do. It does make for an adventurous afternoon, but it does not make one an archeologist. FACT: No actual archeologist has ever come into their profession through assumptions. It’s true. Look it up. Who knows though. Maybe my dreams are late bloomers. Maybe they stayed up too late in my past life and are just now waking up with bloodshot eyes and frumpy hair. “Woah.” they comment as they rise from their proverbial bed. “Sorry about that. Last life was intense. What are we doing? Oh, shit. You’re 28? You wanted to be an archeologist? O.K. O.K. we can still do this. No seriously. Every single moment is another chance to turn it all around… or whatever. Let’s get on it. Where is your shovel?”
And we would be off. I’d wake up on my 29th birthday and decide to clear my head from all life experiences by taking a long walk through the Tennessee hills. I’d climb a crest and find a waterfall. I’d strip down to nothing and fall through its watery fingers to the small, reflective pool below. I’d scrap my elbow, as I landed, against something sharp and ancient. Gasping from the pain; I would reach into the watery grave and reveal a beautiful, ivory femur. Human, but not human. The missing link. The answer to a fiery spiritual/scientific debate that has waged on for years. Returning to my clothes; I’d pull out a pocket knife. I would thank my dreams for awakening later in life. I would carve a sentence onto the surface of the prehistoric bone. A hawk would swoop down and take it from me. The treasure would be lost. 1,000 years later… an actual archeologist would find it. With his magnified glass he would read carved across the prehistoric entity: WHY DIDN’T I WANT TO BE AN ASTRONAUT?
Do you really think that they will have a pill for everything in the future? One to effect your dreams. One to cure writer’s block. One to turn love into disdain. One to give you good taste in clothing. One to help you understand James Joyce. One to disappear? One to reappear?
If so; I hope I’m alive to see it. I’d wake up in the late afternoon and take the pill that makes me limber. I’d stretch my old bones as the sun set around me. I’d dress in black and take the pill that gave me night vision. I’d prowl the streets. Hid in corners. Walk closely behind people and make them think they took the pill that helps you believe in ghosts. I’d pop another one and climb the side of buildings. I would be weightless and smiling. I’d float over rooftops. I’d kick old abandoned satellite dishes across the skyline. They would land in manicured yards miles away. A man in his robe and slippers would walk outside and stare at the little contraption. He would pop a pill and walk back inside. I would land on water with a handful left of the tiny capsules. I would shoot fire across the surface and stare at my reflection. I’d look like an old monster without a home. I wouldn’t know myself. I’d drop my pills and watch them sink and float away. I would miss them. And then I would sink. And nothing would be left to save me. And I would tear and fade like an old map without purpose. I’d never be seen again. And no one would be surprised.
What would Jesus have been for Halloween? Himself? Jesus as Jesus? Growing up; I always wanted to believe that He would have a sort of self degrading humor about himself like that. Warm and dry and subtly funny. I think it would make the whole “titling himself as the SON OF GOD” thing more bearable if He was throwing in a few snide comments on his tattered robes or something. Maybe that’s just me trying to conform a religious icon into something understandable. Something more like me. Oh sure! The creator of all things manifested himself into the form of a man. He intertwined spirit and cosmos and flesh and mystery. And I’d be more impressed if he talked like Larry David.
This isn’t anything new though. Most of us are looking for ourselves, aren’t we? In a mate or a home or friends or music or religion or literature or workout routines or clothing styles or political figures or art. In the end, we naturally are drawn to the understandable. Not because of it’s simplicity… because the longer you stare at anything you realize that nothing is simple and everything is complicated. Everything has more bones and joints and veins and stray hairs and bruises and blemishes than we think. Anything deemed simple has simply not been properly examined. I think we are drawn to the understandable because it makes us understand ourselves. A connection with anything means you are realizing a truth about your own being. To relate to another is to enlighten yourself. I REPEAT: TO RELATE TO ANOTHER IS TO ENLIGHTEN YOURSELF. It’s very exciting.
I think I’m going to go as an aura for Halloween. The aura of Jesus. The aura of Jesus performing at The Laugh Factory. The aura of Jesus performing at The Laugh Factory who points out every minuscule fault and scar and scratch and evidence of uniqueness to everyone who has ever existed. I’ll be here all week, folks.
Raise your hand if you’re terrified by the fact that we’ve never been able to get to the center of our own planet. That unknown depth stirring below our feet. Dragons and molten lava and fallen angels with flaming wings screeching between giant stone discs the size of continents. It’s a rush hour that lasts for eternity down there and we have no idea what’s going on. We have no idea when it’s going to end. Maybe some sort of mass implosion will scatter both the surface and the depths across the nothingness. Or maybe it will end in a slow crawl. Millions of years of drying creek beds and colder seasons and daily extinctions. And the Earth becomes a fragile shell that gets picked away by cocky little astroids. And the remains scatter fearfully… expecting to never see each other again. Expecting to spend the rest of their existence longing for that feeling of purpose that comes with being a part of such a magnificent and complex collection that is a planet.
Of course, there is the chance of a black hole (the dark king of space) sweeping all the particles of the universe up at some point. Taking them/us all on a mystical ride of warped space and time and luck and odds and spitting them/us out on the other side. Whiteness. Clean. New. Mass Revelations. Immense Opportunity. And one shiver of life moves near another and they touch. And then another to another. And another to another. And here we go again.
Where does identity lie? Or… what makes you who you are? Or… without our memory; we have no past. Without our past we are constantly a new person. This idea of my brain containing information that defines who I am is verging on the comedic/tragic this morning. Who can trust their own brains? It’s atoms that make flesh that run off of electricity and happenstance. No one has any clue what sparks it or keeps it going at all. It’s a goddamn mystery of the universe sitting inside our skulls. Think about that. Think about your brain in a literal sense right now. Touch your face. Feel your bone structure. Rub the top of your head. It’s in there. Sitting there like a Buddha statue. Floating in the perfect amount of fluid and working its wonders without your permission. Shake your head. It’s in there with its 3rd eye and pale complexion. THERE IS A BRAIN IN YOUR HEAD MAKING YOU AWARE AND ALIVE RIGHT NOW. And one vein can misfire and you go insane. One section of tissue gets lazy and you become a completely different person. It’s unfair in an unfair universe. People pray for their minds to be strong. Nations wish at night to their ceilings that everything goes well. Agnostics hope. Atheists feel completely alone while marveling at the odds against them. It’s frustrating. Who gets a say? No one. No one gets a say. We wait. We wait. We wait. We wait. We wait. And after we realize our waiting is in vain. We wait some more.
Some days I feel as though I am being lead around by an invisible thread. It was fed through my nostrils and then criss crossed between each of my eye sockets. So, it has me now and nothing can be done about it. I’m under its control and no amount of biting or swatting in its direction is going to help. I sit and wait until I feel it tug at my skull. It feels like a sinus head ache. Mucus and pressure. It’s time to move on. Maybe where I was felt comforting or appropriate, but it doesn’t matter. I’m forced to stand and follow the unknown source through the mundane and the unmentionables.
Traffic from a funeral procession. Sleepless nights from aching bones. Fearful doctor visits. Relational disputes in a late night parking lot. The realization that those who I love are older every minute I see them and that and I am not as young as I once was. Every second is the pull of the thread and I suddenly realize that it’s leading me, kicking and screaming, to an unseen cliff at the end of the dessert of my life. And there are times when I pretend that I except the quickness and vitality of the path I am being lead down. And there are times that I do not.
And then I see others being lead by their own thread and I think, “Maybe we could tangle all our threads together and that would slow this whole thing down. Might give us a change to rest and forget about that cliff for a bit longer.” And then I do. I tangle mine with theirs. And it actually does slow the whole thing down a bit. We dig in and find a communal weight to brace ourselves within. And we stay warm and dry. And there’s some peace for a bit. And maybe that’s what love is.
I don’t want to wake up and complain, but it really is rare to get paid to do what you love. Every podcast or GQ artical with a successful musician or architect or actor or rock climber contains the words, “Do what you love.” As if there are not MILLIONS of other people out there who tried to do the exact same thing as they’re doing, but just didn’t get lucky. They weren’t at the station the particular second that one lucky train pulled up and said, “All aboard you dreamers! Destiny awaits! And a book deal to boot!”
AND if everyone was out climbing mountains… who would pave the streets. If everyone was a poet… who would run telephone lines? If everyone owned a vintage printing press… who would bury our dead? If everyone was exactly what they wanted to be… who would take care of everything else? Chaos. Mayhem. Extravagant tragedy. Elaborate failure. A mass opulence of the horrific.
I’m looking in the paper with my red pen. Dark coffee steaming against the widow. Black clock ticking on the wall. I find the ad:
We’re looking for a bright, late twenties, pessimist who doesn’t actually waste his pessimism. His eye sight should be getting slightly worse and must have a propensity to doodle dark creatures on any piece of junk mail in his vicinity. Bad dancer, but quick on his feet. Clever, but doesn’t get in the way of a good idea. An allergic lover of black cats. A weak memory. An interested disposition. A vain reader. An understander of the human disposition. Reply immediately by fax with your blood type and most recent brain scan. Don’t think. Just go.
Who’s the loneliest person in the world? Or better yet… who is the most alone? These are (more than likely) two different things. Every man assumes there is a hidden part of him that desires to live in complete seclusion for his entire life. That he could “do it” if given the chance. He imagines that he could work his hands corse by fighting the rugged landscape around him. Tame a wolf to sit on the edge of his designated perimeter and train it to howl warnings at the sight of any large predators. Grow his beard long and build a pueblo of strong clay. Position the hard shelter beneath the shade of prehistoric pines that tower above him and protect him from wild storms in the night. Go into town once a year for supplies. Rope, seeds, blades, gun powder, books, medicine, paper, ink pens, boots. Take the journey slowly back to his secluded spot. Stop for hours at a time. Make sure no one or thing is following him. Find the tamed wolf waiting for him when he returns and slit its throat with his new knife. The animal had become too accustom to him. It made him known and common place. Everything the man wanted to never be again. Then… plant his fresh seeds in morning ground. The dew would make the soil soft. He would cover the seed with a small piece of fish like the Indians did in his childhood books. Stack the piles of novels and scientific manuals within the large hand built shelves that cover his shelter. Keep his gun powder dry beneath fur and hide. Heal his wounds with fresh plants and bandages. Scribble goodbye letters to no one with the black ink. And then… tie his new rope into a noose. Drape it over his doorway like a rosary. Close his eyes. Hear nothing. Wait.