May your limits be unknown, and may your efforts be your own…Don’t break character.
Sitting in the middle of the airport in Rochester, NY and getting on a flight even when I don’t know what’s on the other side, I feel my limits very much. Usually, when we make plans, especially plans like international travel, we have all our ducks lined up in a row. I’m one of those duck people.
I don’t look like it, but I like control, just like everyone else. That’s why living here on Earth doesn’t work well sometimes. Maybe living somewhere like Mars or Venus would help, or perhaps there is a transcendent sort of peace that only Neptune can provide. Maybe there’s one planet, star, nebula, asteroid belt, or galaxy in the universe where everything comes together at the right time for the right reasons and the right people make the right decisions. I think I heard an old book talk about that once. Wherever it is, it’s very far away.
The star maker says, “It ain’t so bad.
I have to leave the airport in Rochester to go to JFK, knowing that there is nothing waiting for me there. My plane to Italy left almost 12 hours ago. It’s the kind of thing where you feel your heart drop into your stomach. Or perhaps, with a little less literary panache, you lie on the beige rug covering your living room, looking from the computer to the sky and repeating over and over to yourself the only word commensurate to the depth of your realization: no, No, NO. Or maybe, betrayed in your sense that some piece of life must be always just, you cry.
I recently read a book recently that talked about being certain. It asserted that rather than being drawn from conclusive and tested facts, being certain is a provable mental sensation that happens to a person. It can function completely independent of reason and often does. This is no more evident than in the case of me reading my itinerary incorrectly.
The spaceman says, “Everybody look down. It’s all in your mind.
But it isn’t all in my mind, Mr. Flowers, it’s very real. I’m looking at the biggest error that I could’ve made, one that will cost me $465 in the very near future, but I don’t know that yet. What I do know is that my ridiculous mistake is, for the moment, mine. I have a chance to not break character. No one has to know about this but me.
Usually, we think that might be a good thing. I certainly used to. We look around when we trip, hoping that no one saw us and counting it as a success if no one did. But many times, I think we don’t want anyone around because of our perception of others, not of ourselves. The world’s not bright like it was when we were little, and we fear we will be laughed at or rejected. Or worse, we feel that we will be a burden on those who want to help, that they will be willing but unable. In short, we don’t trust others.
But we know ourselves. In fact, there’s no one we know better. We know all the smart and dumb things we’ve said, all the clever and idiotic things we’ve done, all the people we’ve hurt and helped. It’s all there, conscious or subconscious, making up the person that we are. The person that decides what the world is. From childhood, we’re given conflicting views on the world, but we do know it’s broken. We’re brought together with an enemy to force an apology from our lips, only to be told when we grow older that you have to have respect for yourself. We’re told that failure makes you better, but we’re shown that no one wants to do it. And we’re told to be vulnerable in a world they told us was dog-eat-dog. Why admit you made a mistake in that kind of world?
But I’ve learned. My best friend Micah says that we’re all just bags of flesh, and I tend to agree with him. There’s not really meaning in letting things like secrets kill you that don’t need to. Cancer, heart disease, obesity, sharks, and cigarettes are all waiting for their chance. According to some, so are vaccines, Obama, and the Devil, and these people would probably agree that those are all the same thing. And if none of these take you before the predestined time, you will be compelled to follow either Father Time or The Grim Reaper into the dark, depending on which one best suits your sensibilities. Because we’re all just human.
Are we human? Or are we denser?
Sometimes, I’m just not sure. I’m not sure if we’re more than just bags of flesh. That’s the kind of stuff that we have to “be still” to know. Listen to the rumors of an unsung heart. Sometimes it really feels like the “dice are loaded from the start”, that there’s truly no way to make things different. But no matter how much we might profess to fall into the myopic trap of thinking this world unchangeable, we don’t believe it. How do I know? Because we choose to live anyway.
I told my family what happened. And then I told my friends. It was reminiscent of the time that I had the worst time of my life in Spain. I didn’t tell anyone of my bungled sojourn for a week after returning, but when I did, my friends told me that it was single-handedly one of the best stories they’d ever heard. And in life, I think you’ll find more situations are like this than you think, and you can find them if you try.
I don’t say this to mean that there aren’t vicious canines ready to tear you apart in this world, because there truly are. I don’t even say this to convince you that the people closest in proximity to you are the ones with your best interests at heart, or that the ones closest to your heart will never be the ones to break it. But in so many cases, we only get what we give. Faith, hope, trust, endurance, perseverance, love: these are not finite resources. Humans are more than the sum of their parts. We’ve got so much left in the tank. I’ve realized that we don’t run out of these things – we stop using them. They’re more like muscles, that atrophy when out of use. But we can be more.
I eventually got to Italy, just short of actually losing my arm and leg in the process. And I had time to think about the unforeseen future, unforeseen in the sense that I couldn’t know in the past how stupid I would be in the future. And for all the things that could’ve gone more wrong (i.e. I didn’t actually have the money to change flights, there wasn’t a flight to Italy that day, that homeless man actually wanted more from me than a bite of my burrito, etc), Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll was playing as I walked through the airport, so everything was going to be ok. At least, everything was going to be ok for the kind of person who noticed things like that. Even in the midst of a devastating loss,
For a second there, I’d won.
My vote is that we’re denser.
*All quotes and paraphrases of The Killers belong to them and them alone.