Icarus

Suppose you were told that you could fly. Would you believe it? Let’s say you even woke up one morning and found that you had wings. Big, glossy wings, with feathers of all the right kinds and shapes and colors that you could wish for. Let us even assume that as you walked around your bedroom, or maybe your kitchen, you could feel those wings and gained control over them. You could flex them, shift them, even open and spread them wide if you have enough room. Your wingspan, we can assume, would be wider than you are tall, so you may knock over your grandmother’s favorite flower vase and break it, but then you may discover how useful your wings are in sweeping glass up. No pesky little shards left on the floor with those powerful feathers getting into every nook and cranny between the tiles.
Are you convinced of your wings yet? Can you hold their image strongly in your mind? Can you feel the bones in your back adjusting to the new weight that is suddenly set on them? Good. Now, suppose you were told that you could fly. These new wings of yours aren’t only decorative, as you may have thought, but they can actually support your weight when you leap off the top floor of the tallest building you know of. Would you protest? Would you say – Surely not, for humankind has no wings and cannot fly, this is a well established fact! Or would you, without considering it too much, take a drive to the nearest high rise, or maybe go right up to your own roof, spread your wings, look into the sunlight, and leap?
What if you knew there was a safety net spread out beneath you, just in case it didn’t work? Of course, nothing is full proof, and you might say that even if you really can fly, the ability might disappear in a few seconds once you’re not even over the net anymore. Alright, I understand your concerns. They’re valid. After all, no one ever told you, and you certainly never expected it yourself, that you would one day sprout wings and be told that you could fly. Say I promise to have four cars drive around with a net stretched between them so that they could catch you no matter where you drift to? Would that be enough, do you think, to make you jump off that ledge?
I can see your concern. It’s true, there are many risks to flying. There are other birds in the air who know their business there much better than you do. They may laugh at your flapping efforts or they might squawk when they see how big and ungainly the rest of your body is. Then there is the danger of severe sunburn – although that’s easily fixable if you wear long sleeves and make sure to rub a lot of sunscreen on your face. Perhaps you don’t think you’ll be able to navigate. It’s true, bird’s eye view is very different than seeing things from the ground. Suddenly, things are spread out below you, and you may feel that things are getting metaphorical as you fly around, above and superior to all the pesky human who can’t do what you’re doing. You don’t want to turn into Icarus, after all.
Of course, you must remember that if you can fly, that means others may be able to as well. Ah, you’d forgotten that, hadn’t you? I’m sorry, I can see how disappointed you are. And just when you were getting excited too. It’s a shame, yes, but you must remember that you can’t possibly be the only one who’s suddenly sprouted wings. Think of how large Earth is! True, perhaps it’s not as big as some other planets, but it’s quite big enough in our terms, don’t you think? There are enough people on the face of it to make it statistically very unlikely that you’d be the only one who was able to fly.
I’ve gotten rather sidetracked, haven’t I? The first question still stands. What if you were told that you could fly? Would you do it? Or would you sever your wings off in fear and then forever hide the stubby feathers and protruding bones by wearing big sweatshirts and promising that you never really liked swimming anyway? It would be a sad thing to live with severed wings. Almost worse than trying to fly and plummeting to the ground. At least, if you try it, you’ll be buried with the splendor of those glossy wings, and I promise that no one will forget you.

Expectations

Prepare for liftoff. Count down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. Feel the beat of blood through veins. Hear the thrum of an engine. Taste the stale air of unfulfilled expectations.

Empathy can go too far, and yet George Eliot had it right in Middlemarch when she tried to teach her readers to feel for the whole of unsung, everyday humanity. So what if the growing of the grass is deafening and overwhelming? So what if being able to read another’s thoughts on his face is searingly painful? Isn’t it worth it?

Scratch a pen over paper. Scratch over written words but don’t forget that they existed. Chalkboards don’t leave behind a trace – they waste words. What if there were a finite number of letters, syllables and words in existence? White boards are just as bad.

Fly with the aid of an umbrella from the roof of a doghouse, but nothing higher. Jump off a tree but only if it’s already been cut down and is lying on its side. Crawl along the ground and look at the busy ants in their long lines. Try to imagine what the sunshine is thinking as it bathes the cold-blooded lizards in its warm rays.

Expect to be disappointed. Expect to be happy. Expect to be sad. Expect things to change. Expect the earth to turn, the sun to rise, the moon to shine, the wind to blow, the ground to shift, the sea to overwhelm. Expect people to be not what they seem, to become different than they were, to throw you off guard. Expect people to be disdainful. Expect people to love.

Support

One block is set on top of another. Another block is set on that one. The tower rises slowly, different colored cubes of wood resting on one another, close but not glued together, balancing. There’s a point when the tower will topple and will need to be built again. The trick is to add blocks at the bottom, on all sides of the first block; the taller the tower, the wider it should be made with the aid of supporting blocks on all sides.
The support is key.

Everybody Dies

It’s an inevitable truth that everybody dies. We don’t all go in the same way. Not all of us get to live long enough. Too many of us die before our time. I say us, because humanity is a species, a world-wide animal that has taken over this planet. Doesn’t matter what you believe – in Darwin’s theories of evolution or in God creating the world in six days or the hundred other explanations people have to figure out how we got here. It doesn’t really matter why we’re here. Only that we are. And that we all die.

Some people believe in a beyond –  a heaven or a hell or something in between. Some believe that we’re all born again into a new body after we die. Some of us believe that there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, that dying is the simple end of life itself, with nothing further. Once again, it doesn’t really matter what we believe about what happens after death. Some of us may take comfort in knowing that there’s a better place that we go to. But some, maybe even many, would rather keep going with their lives as long as they can without finding out what’s awaiting.

Everybody dies. Yes. It’s a simple truth. Death is portrayed as a dark angel, a hooded figure with a sickle, a looming darkness, a white light, a sense of peace… None of us will know what death is until it happens to us. The only thing I can imagine about death is silence. Absolute silence. So still, so extremely quiet, that it’s deafening.

Why does everybody die? It’s the simple cycle of nature, or God, or Gods – whatever and whomever you want to attribute it to. Some people believe there’s a reason – a sin, or a mistake, or something that needs punishing. Some people believe there’s a reason – that a person is too good to live in this world of fear and darkness. Some people simply believe there are no reasons.

The problem is, until now, this looks like a depressing, rather scattered article about death. But is it? Really? Isn’t knowing that death is inevitable freeing somehow? It can let us live without fear, without the constant gnawing pangs of worry over what might happen to us when we fly, or cross the road, or have a surgery. I can’t say that knowing that death is waiting for us all helps when someone we love dies. It doesn’t help then, and won’t ever, because losing someone is more difficult than losing oneself, or most always is.

But in terms of each of our own personal lives – there’s a freedom to being aware of the simple truth that humans, just like all other animals, procreate and then die, leaving the world to become, hopefully, a better place.

If Life is Indeed a Cabaret

If life is indeed a cabaret,

Then how is it that every day,

We simply make our weary way,

From sunup ’til in bed we lay?

**

If the world is merely a stage,

Then why work so hard for wage?

And why then do we fear to age,

If elders are supposedly sage?

**

If we’re meant to see ourselves as flowers,

That bloom and wilt after some hours,

Then why does Death make us cower?

And why does his nearness make us sour?

**

But let us say life’s a show,

One that is unnaturally slow,

And if we accept there’ll be some woe,

Does it make it any easier to go?

**

No, it doesn’t, that I’ll say!

For if life is good, we’d like to stay.

And even if it’s not, that’s still okay,

Death will come sometime, anyway.

Lost

Sometimes, I get lost.

Lost in a sea of emotions. But they’re confusing. They come from everywhere and nowhere. They come from the sky’s particular tinge of blue that reminds me of a childhood, a true childhood, that’s been gone for longer than it should be. They come from some mysterious place within the tightness in my chest, grounding themselves with no explanation as to why they’re there.

Sometimes, I get lost.

Lost in an ocean of thoughts. My mind is like some sort of quantum machine, managing to be in all different lines of thought at the same time. Only when I choose to look at a particular theme does it become stark black ink against the backdrop of grey matter swirling in my mind. But when that happens, the thoughts become slow, strange, so sharply focused that it hurts to look at them. So I let them go back into the maelstrom, and I stop concentrating.

Sometimes, I get lost.

Lost in a wave of delirious physicality. Walking, dancing, making contact – they all take on such an incredible appeal, pump such strong streams of endorphin into my brain that I become more acutely aware of my heart pumping, my muscles working, my sweat dripping. When I’m inside the movement, I feel close to some sort of essence of the body. After a while, I get the feeling that I’m no longer in control. I have to keep walking, I must keep dancing, I really can’t bear to end the hug.

Sometimes, I get lost.

Lost in words.

Stories

We’re all made of stories.

We’re all living stories.

We’re all making stories.

Everything in our lives can be seen as a story. There’s the story about how you were born, the story of whose braid you pulled in first grade, and when you got braces, and why you chose to take physics in high-school and where you had your first kiss.

We all tell stories every day. There’s the story you tell your best friend about how your date went last night, the story you tell your aunt about whose car you dented last week, and the one you tell your coworker about when the boss got drunk at the office party, and the one you tell your cat about why you’re giving him canned food instead of dry today, and the one you tell yourself about where you wish you were right now.

We all make up stories all the time, too. There’s the story of how you wish your father was alive, the story of whose life you’d want to try out for a day, and the story of when you’ll really feel like a grown-up for sure, and why you’re going to win the lottery next time and where you can picture yourself living in ten years.

But then, there are the missing stories.

The stories of horrible events that need to be suppressed.

The stories that you’ll never know, because there’s no one who can tell them to you.

The stories that will never be, because they’re too frightening to really accept.

Even then, though – there are stories. Every minute of every day of your life. They are stories.