Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Empty Space

What's one thing you're afraid of?
Deathly afraid of.

The dark?
A duck watching your every move? (Don't laugh--it's legit.)

We smile at those things, the "little kid fears."
We fear other things now that we're grown.

Losing our financial stability.
Not being understood by our friends.
Never finding true happiness.

Everyone has a different set of fears, and a different toolkit of coping.

But there is one thing we all fear.

We all fear being abandoned.

The child forgotten, the friend betrayed, the wife divorced, the boyfriend dumped. We don't want to be any of that.

We tremble in our deepest souls at the thought of being lost, alone, forgotten.


And yet.
Isn't it strange how we abandon things without any second thought?

I'm not just talking about the animals dumped off the side of the road, the children aborted for no reason, or the friendships we quit putting time into because "well, we're just so different now."

What about the inanimate things we handle every day?

That mp3 player you used when you were thirteen. Or maybe the record player, depending on your age. Where is it?
What ever happened to that stuffed animal you had when you were a baby? Probably fell to pieces after the 4967th time in the washer. Who knows?
The tin can that you had lunch out of last week. Where did it go? In the trash, of course--or maybe, if you're extra fastidious, the recycling. Beyond that, who knows. And who cares?

"Hey now, that old thing (insert whatever you please) just wore out! It quit working. It was junk. I literally could not keep using it. I moved on. Change and moving on is healthy!"

Yeah, I know. Believe me, I know.
But that's the way we've been structured to live.

How many times a year does that smartphone in your pocket demand an update?
Have you ever looked at it and gone, "Seriously, I like this just the way it is. Would you stop it with the updates?"
Or do you always just download it without a second thought?

We're consumers--the biggest consumers of any era that could be named. We're spending, taking selfies, and digging through a thousand different kinds of mustard on a supermarket shelf to find happiness. But the solid foundation built beneath us by fathers, grandfathers, and the hopeful and brave who have gone before is starting to crumble into pieces.

Our societal Pangaea is splitting into continents. But it's not cracking in large, uniform pieces. It's splintering into thousands. And somehow, we're all ending up marooned on our own little piece of rock, drifting through a silent, empty space.

We idolize Robinson Crusoe, cast away with nothing and no one but his wits and his will to survive. But we don't want to be him.

Our society has been shaped and re-shaped many times in the last number of years. It's quickly arriving at a juncture that none of us want to accept or admit--soon, we'll all be floating islands, forgotten tech, and discarded tin cans.

We've made such a habit of abandoning things that soon it's going to be our turn.

I'm not preaching doom. Don't get me wrong.
But I'm also not here to say that we can change the flow of time either.

Eventually, and a very soon eventually at that, we will be left with nothing but our wits and our will to survive. It's coming to everyone. We aren't ready for it.

There is a saying. It goes something like this:
"Good times make weak men.
Weak men make hard times.
Hard times make strong men.
Strong men make good times."

It's a cycle. I believe we're in the second quarter, making hard times for ourselves--making our daily lives a tangle of the very thing we fear most in the world. We're about to find out what hard times are like. And we aren't a bit ready.

The good news is that the third quarter comes close on the second's heels. "Hard times make strong men." Men of faith, of courage, of resource. Men who will look around them and make use of whatever they find. Men who will, in the solitude of their broken islands, at last face their fear of abandonment and shed the habits they've built up.

And when the hard lessons have been learned, eventually those shattered bits of rock floating in space, each with its lonely commander, will find their way back together again. Not because of some random blowing of ethereal wind, either. We'll forge rockets, fit them to our islands, and go in search of the better times.

My suggestion?

Learn now to love the silence of empty space, the fury of the heavenly winds, the sparkle of nothing around you but a thousand colored nebulae and distant galaxies. If you make a friend of that vast, empty space now, someday when it's all you have you won't feel so lost.

Then maybe, when the hard times hit and we're left to watch the shifting celestial clouds of stardust, we'll see the answers to our fears and find the source of strength once again that at present we've all but forgotten exists.

And once that happens, once we are made hopeful and brave again, the better times will return. Oh it may not be in this world--we may have to wait till the next to find them. But they'll come.

For now, I'm going star-gazing. Who wants to come?