A Life of Gaps, Hills, and Valleys
I was once challenged to view life as a constant upward trajectory like a curving graph that as time goes on the line continues to go higher and higher without fail. This thinking was recently once again thrown at me from a place of joy and compassion and I had the same initial response I did back then, “are you freaking kidding me?!” I looked out upon a sea of potential and errors, personally, socially and relationally and could not fathom how anyone could posit such a clearly ridiculous claim. Life as a series of continual progress? Come again? Have you not seen the news lately?
The failure of our rational capacities stares us in the face with every “news” show, whether it be right or left, pandering to the lowest of emotional pulls and where parents who let their children die because of some horribly absurd religious notion concerning the evils of modern medicine do not see prison time. Oh yes, clearly there is an upward trajectory, but I think someone is looking at from upside down.
Then it dawned on me. I had not considered something yet. Like a child straining and straining at that math problem that still makes no sense until like an exploding star the answer scatters itself across consciousness, I could not stop myself from seeing at least the beginning of an answer. I pictured myself drawing a curving upward line and then I imagined looking at it closer, then bringing out a microscope and looking even more closely. From far away the line appeared solid, clear in its unwavering incline towards the heavens, but as I got closer the line began to become more nuanced. The vibrations of my heartbeat which traveled down my arm and into my fingers and through the pencil had created dips and rises, valleys and hills. What from far away seemed of only one story, upon close examination an entire world of possibility opened up. Here the vibration of my heart, there the subtle contours of the paper, over there the subtle spinning of the earth’s axis for which I am never consciously aware, all of these created variations in the line I had drawn. Even closer still, gaps appeared as atoms split apart and regained their individuality, until only quarks remained winking in and out of existence going places I could not understand even were I to try.
The universe is a perspective machine unlike any other. A constant churning of millions of variables, of which we are aware of only a very small amount.
I recently wrote and spoke in a group about the egoistic hubris of humanity, where we tell stories concerning what we perceive to be a special event that occurred to us, forgetting in our telling that there were literally millions upon millions of variables that went into the creation of that event, connections that have a history of which we are unaware and that had absolutely nothing to do with us. This in no way takes away from the significance of the event, meaning being after all the subjective projection of our own minds. Rather, it should caution us that even in the midst of profound transcendence or the height of bliss there remains a great many other events, great and small, which exist and can be seen were we to merely shift our awareness a single degree and were we to look closer we’d see just how many so-called smaller events were more significant than at first we gave them credit for.
The perspective we bring to events shifts how we integrate, or whether we integrate at all, the events of which we find ourselves a part of and which we often humorously think are centered upon us.
I sat recently at a Starbucks and realized with a quickening of my pulse that it was the location of a great many coffees on the way, via the ferry to Seattle, to my first Master’s program. It was a time of greater change than even I acknowledged at the time. The individual events, small and at times seemingly insignificant added to a life-line that once I take a step back from the contemplation of the small, there comes to mind a greatness that is pure wonder.
Certainly there could have been other events, other relationships, that led me to an approximately similar place where I am at today and because of that I will not say any of them were necessary, but the fact remains that where I am today, in this particular spot, writing these words and feeling these thoughts and smiling even in the midst of lingering pain, would not be occurring without all that came before. To the mechanically-minded this is no great revelation, but I choose to ascribe a meaning to it and call it good. In so doing I do not dismiss the heartache nor more than I dismiss the joy, nor does it absolve of me of living ethically or making amends for when I am asleep to my potential, but a context reminds me that life continues in the creation of life. That certainly is something to celebrate, whatever may happen tomorrow or the next day or the next.
© David Teachout