Something whole out of something secret…

two black skeleton keys on an old paper
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

Leigh Bardugo says that “every man is a safe, a vault of secrets and longings.” But, I think we’re even more complicated than that. We are a horizonless hallway of locked doors. A procession of secret armories, storerooms, and depositories. A vast collection of oddities and curiosities, hidden truths and sacred relics, stowed behind barricaded entryways and combination locks. We listen alone in the expansive hush of a knowing-unknown.

There is a profundity in this silence that is beyond rational understanding and it is the task of the writer, the artist, the poet to attempt to express the truth of it’s mystery in media and form. Anne Lamott says that “Truth seems to want expression” and “Unacknowledged truth saps your energy”. This is why I write; to make an ouroboros. To make a circle out of incompletion. To bend something broken back in upon itself. To make something whole out of something secret.

Daniel Levine writes that “We all long to tell our secrets. We simply must wait for someone to come along and ask the right question.” I write because I’m tired of waiting. I am a mystery even unto myself. I am a tabernacle built in the mine field of things I don’t know how to say, and somewhere in the process of scraping words across the page, the ambiguities of who I am are made clear, even if sometimes it is only for a moment. I write to try to find the right question to ask myself, to reveal the covered truth of myself to myself.

For me, writing is not simply the means by which I say what I think, but rather it is the very the way in which I think. The way in which I discover what I think. The process by which I am thinking.

Mary Oliver writes that “It is supposed that a writer writes what he knows about and knows well. It is not necessarily so. A writer’s subject may just as well, if not more likely, be what the writer longs for and dreams about, in an unquenchable dream, in lush detail and harsh honesty.” I write what I want to know. I write about what I wish I had known ‘then’, about what I wish I could know ‘now’. I write to better know the world. I write to better know myself. “I…observe and take notes,” as Octavia Butler suggests, “trying to put things down in ways that are as powerful, as simple, and as direct as I feel them.” I give witness to the flickering sensations of thoughts and emotions. Noticing where and how a mind tries to find purchase, in the half-lotus posture of watching breath upon a page.

“[W]e are each a confluence of forces that exceed our own understanding”, Jenny Odell says. We are living Rorschach tests. Ink blots that breathe. We say and do things we don’t mean. Mean things we don’t do or say. And, we struggle with the meaning of it all, if there is even any meaning to be found at all. But, there are times and circumstances, instances and small windows that allow us to catch a glimpse of an answer to the enigma at the heart of who we are. “[I]t’s in the act of making things and doing our work”, Austin Kleon says, “that we figure out who we are.”

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Pain and purpose…

pain and purpose
Photo by Pixabay on

“The meaning we give to what happens in our lives is our final, inviolable freedom…If you have any sense, you will ask someone with more experience than you to help you decide what the answer means, but even then the choice is yours.”

– Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World

I believe that most pain is purposeless. A sensorial response to stimuli devoid of any overarching meaning or higher purpose. Our agony is arbitrary. Tragedy comes without rhyme or reason. Life is not fair. It has never been, nor will it ever be. Either for good or for ill almost none of us get what we deserve. “Justice”, J.M. Miro says, “is just a bucket with a hole in the bottom.” It spills in all the wrong places before it can be poured out where it belongs. At best, we cup our hands and reach out in the hopes that we can manage to catch just a few drops in between the leak and the loss.

Charles Bukowski said that the greatest teaching he was ever given was “the meaning of pain, pain without reason.” He learned the lesson, took the pain and the pointlessness of it, and put it to use. His writing was an affliction without cause held over a flame, a viscous black simmered to a sweetened reduction, a dragon chased across the page. Pen put to paper, like a needle to a vein. The drug and the recovery. Addiction and redemption.

Some of us live with a tenebrous presence in the passenger seat of our lives. We all too often find ourselves in varying states of inner turmoil and mental anguish. Sadness requires so small a catalyst. Despondency condenses into bigger drops and empties from the sky. Apathy drenches everything, and we look out to find a world saturated in a breathless shade of exhaustion and suffering. For us, the utilization of pain isn’t an option, it’s essential; a necessary resource in the effort to survive. We either appropriate the angst or be overtaken by it. We can collaborate with it or we can be consumed.

“So often the experiences that define us are the ones we didn’t pick,” says Kate Bowler. We lose a job. We lose everything we spent years building. We are forced to start over from nothing. Love, or at least what we thought was love, like everything else, turns out not to last forever. A marriage ends. We find ourselves having to begin again, again. “Life is not a series of choices”, Bowler says. It is a mound of things we never asked for, and yet they are still ours to keep. Catastrophe. Trauma. Grief. Loss. Lament. Loneliness.  But, perhaps one of the few choices we get to make in the existential shit-show of being human is, what to do with what we have been given? What to do with all the suffering we’ve been handed? The human condition is terminal, but at least we get to decide how to manage the pain.

I believe that pain can be given a purpose,  that it can be harnessed for a cause. That agony can be given an aim. That tragedy is a propellant that burns clean with the perfect mixture of oxygen and fuel in the engine of creation. Radhule Weininger explains that “Trauma rewires our brain and causes us to experience the world differently.” We become something anomalous and atypical. “[W]e come to live in an altered world and in an altered body.” But, this is a feature not a bug. An advantage not a defect. Art has always been about seeing differently, and about helping others to see differently too.

Kierkegaard said that a poet is “An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music…. And people flock around the poet and say: ‘Sing again soon’ – that is, ‘May new sufferings torment your soul but your lips be fashioned as before, for the cry would only frighten us, but the music, that is blissful’.”

To mine the ore of an insufficiency, to reach into the wounded void, to heat the hurt until it thickens, to pour the pain into porcelain casts, to turn the ache into clay, to mold it until it takes shape, until it turns into something that speaks, something we can befriend, is to be an artist crafting something from the nothing of an absence.

The pain of the process becomes the treasure of the quest. We learn to love the ache, to hope in the hurt, to yearn for the work more than any form of reward. Anne Lamott says “It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony.” What you thought you needed was to be mended, to be made new, but what you really needed was to embrace the break. To attend to a fragile sanctity. To let the limp become a dance; the ballet of one of one who has wrestled and kept going, one who has striven and prevailed.

To satisfy a deeper need…

to satisfy a deeper need

I’ve become so attached to the idea of creative success, to artistic professionalization, to a career in the written word, that I’ve begun to believe my life is only half-formed without it. That I am incomplete until it’s achieved. As if a paycheck garnered from these thoughtful scribblings is the answer to it all, the cure for every scar. But, this is only half true, if it is even true at all.

Saying that I’ve become attached to the idea of a creative career and that I’ve begun to believe that I’m only a partial person without it, suggests that it is a newly formed condition. Something unprecedented and recently developed. When, in fact, it is something only recently recognized and acknowledged. The chronic symptoms of a long metastasizing sickness, now too overwhelming and pervasive to be ignored, brushed off, or pushed aside. Chasing the desire feels like medicine, and I cling to it all the more.

I suppose every addiction feels like a remedy when you’re riding the high of it. But when you come down, when you crash, when you bottom out, and you find yourself still aching and un-cured, you discover it’s anything but medicinal. And yet, the yearning doesn’t stop. It rises, crests, and increases. A tide that cuts through rock and pools in the hollow of our unseen places, where the only sound is withdrawal.

Attachment turns to craving; the greedy desire of wanting too much, too badly. The disdainful aversion to anything else, anything less, anything other. And the pitiful delusion that somehow it will fill that cavernous well, a well emptied out by the insatiable avarice of an Eldritch need. An unrest at the heart of everything I’ve yet to be. “[T]hat was what destroyed you in the end”, Leigh Bardugo says, “the longing for something you could never have.” The failure to realize that necessity is not the same as demand. V.E. Schwab says that “There is a chasm between sustenance and satisfaction”. And, I would also add that there is a canyon that exists between want and need.

Anne Lamott explains that “Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises.” It alters and expands all our expectations. Shows us the beauty in broken places. Finds the magic in trap doors and hidden compartments. “[W]riting”, Lamott goes on to say “can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong.” The act of needling a thread through words, stranding together thoughts, and sentences, beads and pearls, until it strings together an elaborate story, reveals the truth of who we are. It can take all your shattered parts and turn them into charms. But, it also shows us the gaps, the holes, the emptiness, the shards. It shows us the ‘needs’ that we don’t actually need at all. The ones we only think we do. The ones we’re really better off without. Writing helps us to admit that we don’t need them. And, sometimes, it can help us to start letting go.

Ultimately, it’s not the lack that carves you into pieces, it’s the want; the short blade, sharpened against stone, that thrusts in deep and cuts across the gut, the want that becomes the wound itself. At the heart of the hurt of want is the belief that we are not enough.

“[H]aving books and stories and articles published,” Lamott makes clear, “will not make [you] well. It will not give [you] the feeling that the world has finally validated [your] parking tickets, that [you] have in fact finally arrived.” And, while I’ll have to take her word for it, I still can’t help but feel she’s right. If you are not enough as you are, then nothing you can have or hold, nothing you can either grip or grab, ever will be.

We have an apophenic reaction to the  constellation of particles swirling around the dark gravity of the space empty at our center; a pattern we falsely recognize as a thing we call “I”. We make vain and futile attempts to add to the pattern of accumulated debris. We try to fill the void. When, in fact, we are the essencelessness of the expanse. We are the vastness, itself.

Martin Buber says that “The life of a human being does not exist merely in the sphere of goal-directed verbs.” We are made up of so much more than the mere additions of our activities, our efforts, and their effects. Sometimes real progress is about “removal, and remediation”, Jenny Odell says. Sometimes gaining ground means holding space. Sometimes its not a matter of becoming more, but making room for less.

I can’t tell you how to believe that you’re enough, that the writing is enough, that the work is enough, that the work of doing the work is enough. I can’t tell you because I don’t know, myself. I have not felt enough, enough. I still don’t. I know there are days when I’m tired. When I feel unbearably slow. When my eyes burn, and all my atoms ache. When my skin bristles and everything hurts.  I know it’s hard to keep making things when you don’t feel like it makes a difference. But, I also know I’m only discouraged about writing when I’m not writing. I know that in the ceremonial dance of tapping out a few good words in the early morning I regain a revelatory sense of what it means to be sustained, to satisfy a deeper need, and maybe that’s enough, or at least close enough.

Memory and Imagination

memory and imagination

John Green writes that “Language shapes our memories, and it is also shaped by our memories.”

He says in one of the footnotes of  The Anthropocene Reviewed that “Nothing lies like memory”.

Memory is inaccurate and unreliable. Memory decays and degrades. But, perhaps, if it is a ‘lie’, it is a lie in the same way that fiction is a lie; “good lies that say true things”, as Neil Gaiman explains. True things that can “keep you sane,” says Matt Haig, and that can keep “you you“.

Memory can be molded. Fashioned and refashioned. Constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed. It is something we are always actively and creatively engaging with and participating in. Memory is a story. It is like a text. Its meaning is malleable, and at any given time we attempt to reread through fading pages of memory in an effort reinterpret what it means now in the light of this day, at this time, in this place. Perhaps memory is always an activity of exegesis and eisegesis. Reading-out and reading-in. Remembering and re-membering. Interpreting and reinterpreting. Imagining and reimagining. The hermeneutics of our own history.

Carlo Rovelli  says that “our consciousness is based on” the meeting of “memory and…anticipation“. He says that “This space” where memory meets and combines “with our continuous process of anticipation is the source of our sensing time as time, and ourselves as ourselves”. This space, “Suspended…in these patterns,” between image and event, where “we might reimagine our lives…through story”, writes Barry Lopez; where “we embrace the great breadth of memory, [where] we can distinguish what is true, and [where] we may glimpse, at least occasionally, how to live without despair in the midst of the horror that dogs and unhinges us.” Where we can right and re-write ourselves.

love will tear us apart…

love will tear us apart

I don’t know a lot about Space, or astrophysics, or science in general really, but that’s never stopped me from trying to think about it or trying to write about it, at least in small fragments anyway.

Black holes are really interesting. Figuratively we often use Black Holes as way in which to represent a vacuous void of emptiness and absence, but really nothing could be further from the truth. Black Holes are anything but vacant or unoccupied. One of the defining features of a Black Hole is that it contains a disproportionately large amount of mass in comparison to its size. Even a Black hole with the scale of an atom can hold an amount of mass equivalent to that of a mountain.

The other defining feature of a Black Hole occurs as a result of the first. Because they contain such an extremely large amount of mass condensed into a small space, Black Holes are places of immense and overwhelming gravity.

Unsurprisingly, I now realize that pretty much everything I know and understand about Black Holes can be consolidated into those few brief paragraphs above, and more than likely I haven’t told you anything you didn’t already know.

But, maybe that in itself is an example of what a Black hole is and what it does. It is a place where rich complexity becomes densely packed, where the tremendous mass of something ineffable is expressed within and amidst something comparably infinitesimal, places with such great force and gigantic gravity that we are inescapably pulled toward them and into them, places that are capable of capturing, containing, holding, and harboring light.

They are bigger on the inside.

Perhaps, I’m romanticizing Black Holes; that’s fair, I’m a writer, not a physicist, and that’s just what we do.

To be sure, Black Holes are dangerous and scary; perhaps, the scariest thing in the universe. It pulls apart everything that falls into it and never lets it go.

But, then again, perhaps, we could say the same thing about love

the ‘velocity of being’ together…

Sometime around the fall of last year my two-person book club partner and I were finishing up reading John Green‘s essayed appraisals of the human-centered world called The Anthropocene Reviewed. And as we were gearing up to start reading Matt Haig‘s melancholically hopeful novel, The Midnight Library, I came across a blog post about a book called A Velocity of Being; a book containing a wide and sprawling collection of letters  and original art created by what might be the most interesting amalgamation of people one could ever hope to come across. Writers, artists, musicians, poets, physicists, astronauts, entrepreneurs, and more, all coming together to share the redemption and salvation that books have the capacity to give to the human soul. I was wowed by the premise of the project, and moved by the beautiful symbiosis of image and word. I sent the article to my co-reader in arms, and a little over one week later she had bought a copy for herself and sent a second copy to me.

velocity of being

After we began reading, we were initiates newly committed to an apostles creed, meandering meticulously through each of the epistles with reverence and fervor. We were trailing at the heels of discovery and devotion. We were disciples covered in the dust of a rabbi’s motion. But most of all, we were together. We were together with one another, but we were also together with the choired mass of other voices who also found themselves within the sacred solidarity of books.

That’s exactly what books are. That’s precisely what they do. Books are the surest cure for loneliness; a communion of blessed fellowship that can cross the span of continents and collapse the constraints of time. Books are a kind of religion; a space of ultimate concern, the gift of what grows from the nutrient-dense ground of our being. And, reading is a form of faith; a faith in the fact that we are never alone, that we when we read we are always and at all times reading together.

goals not met…

This blog co-written with Carolyn Jones

Sometimes you hit the target. Sometimes you smash it. Sometimes you take a shot, and it rebounds on the crossbar. Sometimes it’s so wide you wonder whether it was even a shot worth taking. But that’s the thing about goals. Whether the ball hits the back of the net, or whether it ends up in the crowd, every attempt teaches us something. We learn from every try.

In 2010 I set out to read 50 books by the end of the year. I fell short by seventeen. I tried the following year, and I missed the mark again. And again. And again. And again. And again. In 2017, I finally reached the goal and read 51 books. But the celebration was short-lived. It took another four years before I was able to do it again. And when I did, I exceeded it by 10 books. But that’s the other thing about goals; they aren’t meant to be easy.

Sofia Segovia says that “life [does] not make promises,” but “sometimes it [offers] opportunities”. While the years of unmet goals sometimes stack up taller than the instances of achievement, there are countless opportunities to be offered and accepted. I am still just as filled with all the pages from all the books that I did manage to read in the years I failed to meet my minimum. Those pages taught me so much. Gave me so much. Guided me through so much. I learned about myself. I learned about the world. I learned about the parts and places within the world that pull up on the strings of my passions, like something lost being dredged from the depths of forgetfulness; a wreckage salvaged from the abyss. Rescued from oblivion. Those pages helped me through innumerable moments of misery, loss, trauma, sadness, and depression. I stood tall. I fell short. I fell hard. I managed to stand back up. I fell even harder still. And I found that all the pages that I held had been upholding me all along.  

We try. We learn. We think. We grow. We make good art. We write a great story. We realize the bigness of small things. And whether we make the goal, we move forward and we move on. Like the clanging persistence of a pinball constantly pivoting the trajectory of the way we think, what we garner in the process remains present and undeterred

It’s easy to think about all the things we didn’t, and perhaps won’t ever, do. All the books that go unread. All the goals that go unmet. The happiness we didn’t have. The wealth and success we didn’t achieve. But those “are matters mostly out of our control,” Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Canor explain. Instead, it is “the work, that we choose.” It is the work we set before ourselves. The tasks we are willing to take on, and the effort we are willing to exert in the attempt that decide who we are and what we will become. 

Rollo May says that we become “fully human only by [our] choices and [our] commitment to them. He says that our “worth and dignity” are attained only “by the multitude of decisions [we] make,” and “These decisions require courage”. It takes bravery and courage to challenge ourselves, to decide to push toward some desired end. To see through the clattering and stagnation. To realise that we need to change. To decide to try, and to commit to seeing it through. 

We may not meet the end we tried for, but regret is the metric of something unreal. Calculations of the things we can’t change. A fixation upon the mathematics of all the events that cannot be other than the way they have been. If these are the means by which we measure our worth, we will always be found wanting. The true testament to our quality is in accepting the humaneness of our scale; the fortitude of our fragility. As Marin Popova says it is in “the presence, persistence, and grace with which we face reality on its own terms” that we achieve something that can never be lost.  

Thanks again to Carolyn Jones for cowriting this essay with me, and for literally everything else.

a letter to things (not) lost…

a letter to things (not) lost

“There’s a voice in your mind, you must have heard it by now… It’s calm when you’re panicked, fearless when you’re afraid… That’s what’s left of the original [you]…It’s not much more than a fragment anymore, a little piece of [your] personality clinging on… but if you begin to lose yourself, heed that voice. It’s your lighthouse. Everything that remains of [who] you once were.

Stuart Turton, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

It’s amazing how much of ourselves we lose along the way, even more astounding is how long it takes us to notice. It happens slowly, glacially, rarely abrupt, and almost never all at once. Sometimes the pieces we lose are the parts we have outgrown; like shedding skin. Or, when new plumage replaces old feathers. But, sometimes we lose parts of ourselves that should have never been forgotten.

“The clothes make the man,” the old adage goes. Perhaps, they also re-make us as well. We wear so many hats, put on so many roles, bear so many names, until we are re-formed and re-fashioned into someone or something almost unrecognizable. There are lies sown into the fabric of forgetting, and we slowly sink into the seams. A snip here. A snag there. We are taken in. We are let out. All in an effort to find a better fit, but sometimes its forced. Too big. Too small Hardly ever just right. Eventually, we can’t even remember what “just right” feels like. It’s the moment when the clothes become a cage; when tailor turns jailor, and for a long time, we are none the wiser.

We chalk up the change to growing older. The wear and tear of maturation and advancing years. The encroachments of adulthood and obligations. Duty and responsibility. Regardless of the reasons, it gets harder and harder to hold on to who we are. And sometimes we stop trying altogether. The disturbing truth of the matter, as Chloe Benjamin says, “is that most people enjoy a certain level of impotence.”

We succumb to the warm and easy seductions of a liquor-like apathy and amnesia. We sip the slow and syrupy booze of believing that we are the equivalent to all the titles that have been thrust upon us. We shrug our shoulders, we wallow in the mire of self-pity and self-loathing. And, he plod along passively pretending that it’s just the way things are. “Almost without knowing it,” John O’Donhue warns, “we slip inside ready-made roles and routines which then set the frames of our possibilities and permissions”; becoming intoxicated by “the security of the confinement and limitation”.
We are afraid  of our own freedom and choice because it forces us to recognize that we are completely responsible for the realization of all the potential and possibility that each of us hold.

We crave the enclosure of structure and facticity, especially in a world accelerating towards entropy, where nothing is overtly clear or explicitly resolvable. Facts are solid, and stable, and sensible. Facts are hard and unflinching and often immovable. Facts are like fences. We think they stand to keep the terror out, but instead they only serve to keep us closed in. We sacrifice the sanctity of our autonomy and ingenuity in exchange for a sense of safety. But, it is a grifter’s bait and switch, as we find ourselves wary and ever-watchful, with only our own anxiousness to occupy our minds.

And yet, a fence is just another word for a hurdle, a half-flacid barrier over which we can learn to leap. If we look closely we can see that we only appear to be held back. Implicitly they provide us with a clear demarcation of where we are and where we can go. They give us a calculable distance to run and a measurable height to climb. It’s the still small voice within that pushes us to the borders. It’s fragmented inner voice that entreats us to reach out just a little beyond our grasp. It’s the feral voice of who we used to before we were corralled and broken that begs and beckons us to pull ourselves up hard toward the top of the fence. It’s the clinging remains of our own wild and undomesticated voice that gives us faith enough to fly off the ledge towards the other side of the fence where possibility stretches out to catch us like a net.  Maybe losing bits of ourselves is unavoidable. “Every life has such weight”, Stuart Turton says, and it’s impossible to carry it all. There is an art to letting go, but it’s one we can only learn through lifetimes of loosening our grip on the parts of ourselves we should have never let fall.

And yet, perhaps, the solace comes from recognizing that we never really lose them. They’re never truly lost. We’ve just lost sight of them. They’ve only been mis-placed and we simply need to re-member them. We simply need to listen. Careful to heed the voice that calls from where all the light within us first began to rise; and where it still resides.

the difference between stones and kisses…

stones and kisses

Carlo Rovelli says that we often” think of the world as made up of things. Of substances. Of entities. Of something that is.” But, in all actuality, it is “made up of events. Of happenings. Of processes. Of something that occurs.” The world, Rovelli explains, is something “that undergoes continual transformation”.

To some that’s disconcerting; the thought that everything appearing solid is really comprised of slippage and instability. But, that’s not what bothers me. Maybe it’s because I’ve read enough about Hegel’s philosophy of Becoming; Geist, Absolute spirit, Mind (with a capital M), perpetually unfolding into iridescent spirals of self-awareness, self-understanding, and self actualization. Or perhaps its because I’ve steeped myself in enough Buddhist thought, with all its notions of Anicca or Anitya;  the impermanence of all things, that Rovelli’s words fail to rattle me. I am often all too cognizant of the fact that time, though it is a slippery concept to define both philosophically and scientifically, pushes everything into persistently new permutations.

There are things and there are events.” The world is not a collection of things,” Rovelli points out, but instead “is a collection of events.” “The difference between” the two, he goes on to say “is that things persist in time” and “events have a limited duration.” A mass of rock is a thing. Perhaps the closest something can come to stasis. For the most part it is unmoving, and thus it makes sense to ask questions about where the stone “will be tomorrow”. Or five years from now. On the other hand “a kiss”, Rovelli says ” is an event” and “It makes no sense to ask where the kiss will be tomorrow”. Or at any other arbitrary point in the future.

And yet, there is something worrisome for me in the Juxtaposition between things and events. It is not that the universe is made of up expanding, ephemeral events. What worries me is that most days I feel more like the stone than like a kiss.

I am surrounded by happenings, and processes, and occurrences, and I don’t feel like I’m a part of any of them. I watch as everything and everyone around me change and progress, grow and evolve, develop and adapt. And I am an the anomalous exception. The sole surviving substance in the continual uncoiling of the cosmos that stays static, fixed, and stuck. If the world is an amalgamation of unwinding events, then I am a thing that is wholly un-worlded, a singularity constricting into fixedness. As the rest of the Universe is motioning ahead, I feel like I am standing in place, falling inward in a collapse of density. Cursed under a spell of slumbering fastness, asleep like a stone, unstuck in time and waiting to be awoken, perhaps by a kiss.

I am at the mercy of a world that moves at a pace that doesn’t match my own. Everything accelerates and all my movements are imperceptibly slow. I’m looking for an out, an exit, an escape. A way forward. Something beyond this. Anything outside of here. But it evades my vision.

Matt Haig says that “it is always hard for us to see the future inside the present, even when it is right in front of us.” It seems to prove that our greatest limitation is “not that of imagination,” Maria Popova points out, “but that of perspective”.  We are so dismissive of small steps in our on going obsession with giant leaps, big bangs of creation, progress, and productivity. Anything less feels like stagnation. Popova says that “our lens is too easily contracted by the fleeting urgencies of the present, too easily blurred by the hopes and fears of our human lives.” We forget that the world unfolds in mountains, plains, and plateaus. Events have peaks and troughs. Evolution takes a very, very very long time. It is slow, and agonizing, and arduous, and excruciating, and incremental. And there will be time when it seems as though nothing has happened and nothing has changed, “but,” as Rocknell Kent explains, “in the quietness the soul expands”.

Perhaps to be silent, to be still, to be so glacially moving, is to be at our most transformative. In a world of entities and eventualities, things and events, stones and kisses, we are only ever one stone’s throw away from sending ripples across great distances. Only one kiss away from waking up…

the space between…

the space between

“Instead of assembling yourself in the dark…so that you wake up one day with no idea of how you became this person – you can look at the world, at the people around you, and choose the parts of your character you want.”

Stuart Turton, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

You still have time “, she says with a serenity that is as fierce and urgent as it is consoling. “So much has passed already,” she states resolutely, “but we still have more; we are blessed with it, and we should make the most of all that remains.”

“It’s about tolerance and patience” she extols. “It’s about recognizing the parts of yourself that feel anchored and constant. It’s about acceptance and awareness. It’s about commitment. It’s about trust.”
Her words come to me like barbed-wire wrapped in lace; language that lacerates with the gentility of a prayer. It is the sting of hopeful longing, and I am quiet in response. Not because I’m skeptical of her summons, nor because I doubt the veracity of her claims. But, because I believe her beyond anything I can say.

I’ve never known anyone like her. She is a thousand beautiful things personified at once. She is softness and warmth. She is a shelter and shield. A refuge of comfort and defiance. She can effortlessly sail the treacherous ocean of my turbulent heart. She soars with wisdom and majesty. She defies convention, defies the odds, defies gravity without ever breaking a sweat. But, most of all she’s almost always right.

And yet, time seems like a strange thing to try to make the most of. Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes that “wisdom comes when it can no longer do any good”. And, we never really know if we’ve made wise use of our time until it’s too late.

Carlo Rovelli  explains that “our consciousness is based on memory and on anticipation”. He says that “This space” where memory meets and combines “with our continuous process of anticipation is the source of our sensing time as time, and ourselves as ourselves”. Perhaps, then, the only way we can make the most of time is to understand the space between. The space between hope and fear. The space between the already and the not-yet. The space between what has transpired and what is to-come. The space between who we have been and who we could still be. That most precarious space of time that we only half-consciously notice as ‘now’.

Here is all there is. Now is all we have. Life meets us on the meridian of becoming, on the cusp of everything, at the threshold of every possible variation. After all, the present is the only place where anything is possible. It is the only place where possibility is.

We are never just one thing. Never just one personality. Never even just one self. You are not only “Your current self”, as John Green explains, but also “all the selves you used to be” and all the unfathomable future selves that have yet to come to fruition. We are neither individual, nor indivisible. We are a collected amalgamation. We are legion, for we are many. And it is “in that space” between, Green goes on to say, that there is “room enough to make…something other…to remake [our] story better and different – room enough to be reborn again and again…room enough to be anyone”.

You still have time. So much has passed, but there is still so much more; we are blessed with it. This is the space in which to cherish the chance to change and choose. And, ‘now’ is the time to make the most of it…