The skyline is lit up like the stars it hides. So instead of looking up we are looking forward. Instead of staring with our heads tilted wondering about humans’ place in the world and the vastness of the universe, we marvel at our own work and the vastness of ourselves.
We are disillusioned. We are so small. If you need proof, think of all the lights you cannot see, the ones that find their home beyond our world. Not the ones stitched together with bricks and mortar and illuminated by electricity. Think of the stars.
When I see the buildings twinkle, I know they are only the charm of an imposter. They’re winking at us. Pleased and proud, like the fraudulent jeweller, they have us fooled.
I want to capture that feeling when the words slide off your pen effortlessly, as if they had always existed in that unique combination. They only use your hand to bring themselves closer to permanence. Like painting watercolour over a message scribbled in white crayon, the script was always there it just needed to be noticed, to be uncovered. And so I’ve blissfully resigned myself to a life of poetic archaeology.
The moment when you realize you’re so full of ambition, yet stifled by it. Like when a puddle spreads in all directions and becomes so flattened that it cannot flow any further. It becomes stuck. I want to be all of the things, which has meant that I have become none of them.
The moment when you look around the room and realize that everyone’s lips are moving and decibels are being emitted but nothing of import is being said—no one is being moved forward, backward, or in any direction or shape as a result. It seems everyone is just pretending to enjoy themselves and you just wonder—what’s the point? So you clear the plates and pretend to be intent on washing the dishes.
Your mother spends the entire meal talking about the gravy, how pleased she is with how well it turned out, how it is just the right texture and how easy the recipe was to follow. When you say “Mom, I’m lost” and she replies, “what do you think about the gravy?” And so she continues, thinking that the solution is as simple as that recipe, believing that life has a set of directions, which if followed will lead you to perfection. Isn’t that what life is—a set of steps, a series of milestones, boxes, which if checked off will result in happiness, fulfillment, completeness? Your father comes home and she fusses to get everything ready and she goes into a long speech about her gravy success, the sifted flour she used, how well the gravy pours, and how the leftovers will be great on meatloaf. And I am left thinking: there has to be more.
The moment when you realize we don’t live in a culture of reflection. When you realize you’ve lived each passed moment in an instant, but as nothing more. It is a fleeting sentiment or apparition and then it is consumed, replaced, left to dissipate. We live in a culture of movement and forward progress, a world where the smart ones are looking forward, and the ones with their gaze reversed are pitied. Looking back is a sign of weakness, doubt, or an indication of pining over what is already gone. How are we expected to move forward without looking back. How can we understand our experience and feel its significance without seeing it more than once, without revelling in the feeling, and asking ourselves why. We may be moving quickly, but I worry about the direction in which we are headed. Getting there fast isn’t any good if there isn’t where you wanted to end up. We are afraid to see the imperfections and look back at our mistakes, so we mindlessly march into the biggest mistake of all.
The moment when you realize you’re in love, only after it has been lost. When it becomes clear that the only person you have loved and can imagine yourself loving has left your life forever. You had the perfect person. Not a person who is perfect, but one who fills the spaces that you leave empty and loves the spaces that you fill. You didn’t realize because you were scared, you distanced yourself, you carefully crafted a tall barrier to protect your delicate heart. You needed to be safe more than you wanted to experience love. And so it was wasted. It is the type of love that will only ever be an aftertaste, the type whose sweetness will never be enjoyed but will only be experienced with bitterness. It’s the only type of love I have ever known. It was young, naive, immature love that was brushed aside by adjectives, but now I am older, wiser, and more mature and I realize that it was real. I suppose I’ll continue to taste the bitterness until something else sweet comes along.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the squandered moments; the moments that are lost, given away, sold cheaply. The ones that you wish you could have back or trade in. The moments spent sitting on the couch numbing your mind, or wasted in listening to someone you disagree with and biting your tongue. Those moments when you were just sitting, passively experiencing your body and mind wither. Then I anticipate there will come moments, at the end, when the ephemeral nature of all this will be tangible, and you will feel robbed by those moments. At that point there will be an urgency; the missing ingredient that is needed in order to fully soak up the potential energy of each cumulative moment of your existence. But it will be too late. That is when your mind will be flooded by ideas, and what if’s, and light. That is when you will be taken somewhere where all those half-thoughts and bright feelings will become whole, and will be forever sustained. In the meantime I’m going to try and make my moments count. I want to feel them, grasp them, hold on to them, and squeeze something meaningful out of each one.
When your ninety-one year old grandfather spends two weeks using his globe, a pen and paper, and his drive to preserve his knowledge of this planet and life on it to determine the circumference of the earth. He was only a few hundred kilometres off. I hope that one day I too will be that relentless when it comes to fighting against obscurity and oblivion. I hope that like him I will continue to seek out the truth, and find as my days go on, that there could be more than just one. I hope that I press against natural law and human limitations to seek out new knowledge even as my brain begins to atrophy. I hope that I continue to live with his passion and awe for human ingenuity, capacity and potential. Most importantly I hope to follow his example in greeting everyday as though the day before had been lost: with unbridled fullness, gratitude, curiosity and love.
The moment when you want to taste, squeeze, reach for, embrace, caress, spark every corner of this big blue planet. You want to feel its pull and influence its force. Is it selfish to want a little piece of everything?
Or the moment you realize you are so full of ambition, yet so stifled by it. I am a puddle spread in all directions, which has become so flattened that it cannot flow any further; instead it loses direction and becomes stagnant. I want to be all of the things, which has meant that I have become none of them.