Life’s like a box of chocolate. Life’s like flying a kite. Life’s like a ladder. An adventure. A roller coaster. The metaphors are endless (and the metaphors are similes while we’re at it). Whether we don’t know what we’ve got till we take a bite, whether we’ve caught the wind or we’re falling from afar, whether we’re climbing over a precarious angle, forging forward to a new frontier, or simply riding the world through a series of ups and downs and one too many loops than any of us wants to go through, life’s got a lot to give us.
This post marks my two hundredth post as the Writingwolf.
My life through this point has encapsulated each of these ideas, but these last few days, they’ve been one of the wildest rides I’ve ever ridden on. Let’s just say I made it around the turn alright.
Two days ago the world changed. If you’ve ever had the feeling that this is a formative moment in your life, you’ll know exactly how I felt–but it didn’t happen all at once.
Monday began calmly enough. Classes. Studying. Office hours. Our monthly Clubs Council meeting had a phenomenal guest speaker and a blow-out attendance. Tutoring went not just swell but spiffy too. My evening government class got to the founding and the Constitution and though my teacher held us the full three hours–after tending to let us out after only two–his lecture was so great, no one even stirred till the end, and then they still raised their hands for questions! It was an exciting day. An amazing day. Almost a perfect day.
But beneath this… the world was awakening into unrest.
So still the water’s surface, the tumult underneath.
I’ve always been captivated by water. I love standing at my college’s lake and watching the waves splash, watching the ripples spread out, watching–awed every time–when a strong wind can be seen coming across the water before you feel it, a whisper of a prophecy of the breath rushing toward you. I love when as I walk past, the light reflects back in such intricate patterns of darkness and light, subtle blues and hundreds of hues all coming together into something beyond words, something only experience can truly capture.
I once asked my physics teacher why this happens. He told me most of what we see on the water’s surface is caused by what’s happening above the surface–the wind, the leaves falling into it, the ducks paddling by. Once we dip beneath the surface, the world changes entirely. In our lake, chaos deteriorates into stillness. In the ocean, serenity falls into underwater currents and riptides churning infernal depths of life-giving potential.
This is how I think of the world: Though all we see is chaos, there is calmness underneath. And when all we see is stillness, the chaos is only waiting to surface. The things we see are the light reflecting into our eyes, the ripples caused by the wind as it approaches. But all of this is only superficial. The truth lies deeper.
Such was the case on Monday: All throughout the day, I saw the riptide waiting to pull me under. The North Carolina General Assembly’s Special Session on the Marriage Amendment was up for vote. And when I got home and watched the eleven o’clock news (delayed until midnight) I saw the House had passed it.
If you’ve ever watched footage of a supernova collapsing–if you’ve ever watched footage of a building falling in upon itself–if you’ve ever watched footage of an atom bomb going off–then you can imagine how I felt inside.
I had deluded myself with the faith that our legislative system would pan out to prove itself impartial, equal toward the law and equal toward the people. I sincerely believed the voices of those oppressed would rise against the tide of our opponents and prevail in our favor–in the favor of justice.
I was gravely mistaken.
On my Facebook page I pronounced: Our political system is failing. Not because of the economy. Not because of debt or corruption. But because our politicians lack the compassion to protect the rights of those whom they represent. What good is a constitution if legislation is passed to overrule full faith and credit in the name of discrimination? What good is representation if thousands of voices are ignored? What good is the promise of life and liberty if this promise is a lie?
On the page of our Political Science Club, my ails were enamored further in the seeds of an intense discussion on legality, constitutionality, and discrimination that persists through today and has been a source of much pleasure in the transfer of ideas–but in the moment was barely a plea of my own crumbling ideology.
On Tuesday, when I arrived on campus, I clipped on my iPod, hid the wire in my shirt, and easily plugged in my headphones. I’m not naturally the social type, but I can open up. I can give an impression. I can talk my case and lead a good discussion. But when I’m broken, when I’m struggling, when I’m dead on the inside, I thoroughly shut down. I stop talking. I turn in upon myself. I put in my headphones and tune out the world.
I listened to “Strangeness and Charm” and “What the Water Gave Me” until the moment class began. Our study of indigenous religions complete, we now moved onto Hinduism. I was amazed at how closely I’ve always resonated with some of their core beliefs, or at least those we discussed in class for an hour and a half. Their concept of maya–that the world around us is merely a dream and does not truly exist–prompted my teacher to ask how we really know what we perceive is true.
My snake-sharp tongue spewed venom before I could reel it back.
I said: Greek logic. The Greeks laid the foundations of our philosophies, and though it has evolved since then, we give it complete faith. We don’t think for ourselves, we don’t reason for ourselves. We just take blindly to their idiosyncrasies and say they are our own. But what is this world? This world is mostly empty space–but surely we don’t see it! Surely we don’t know this! Most of the matter of an atom is compacted into the minuscule nucleus–and compared to the entire atom, the nucleus is no larger than an apple compared to the earth. Most of this world is emptiness. What we see is the little bit that’s there–the rest we cannot even begin to know.
It made me feel better. It also made me feel worse.
In Statistics I sit behind one of my closest friends. I barely said a word to her. After class I barely said goodbye. I plugged in my earphones, plunged into the stairwell, and listened to Florence until my next class began.
When I stopped to eat lunch, I sat on the brink of our lake and gazed at the baby mosquitoes swarming the surface, the little specks of nothingness moving in every direction, the bits of rippling water too swift to follow. From a distance, nothing: but up close, a glorious sight.
I hung fliers during my office hour. I traversed campus with music blaring. The world caved in to my silence. My rhythm, my words, my meaning drowned out the sound around me and gave me a semblance of bliss.
I kept my headphones in until the car ride home.
I felt crushed, defeated, turmoil and heartache, disbelief and a loss of faith. My belief in righteousness lay in broken pieces before me. My optimism for the best in people was shattered beyond repair. Nothing more could bring me any lower. Nothing more could devastate me more than this had hurt me. Not even physical death could feel as hollow, as lonely, as lifeless.
Today the sun burnt my skin and turned me red. But it was worth it. Today was our Clubs Fair. I made it a point to visit all the clubs multiple times, made sure to meet people and commit names to memory, to match faces with personalities and try to bring a bit of community into our distanced student organizations. We all need to belong together. I paid no heed to the sunlight bearing down; I merely moved from one to another, forging new bonds, making new relations, adding to what I hope to become a great foundation.
The personal contact was pleasurable. I got to see friends. I got to make potential new friends. The heat made me sweat made me flush out the freezing poisons from yesterday. And the personal contact didn’t let me down. How could I feel sad when forced to put on a happy face? How could I be angry when I see our future is in stronger hands?
I still feel changed. Something inside me has shifted. It’s been a landmark revelation. I’ve glimpsed the future, and though troublesome and trying, a tunnel into which we’re heading, there’s another light at its end, and I’m confident we’ll emerge into a brave new world, bright with the ambition and compassion of a new generation, a new ideology, a new practicality to bring us closer and sow the seeds of a greater world to live in.
This may have been an end, but an end is only a beginning in disguise.
This post marks my two hundredth post as the Writingwolf. My life through this point has encapsulated each of these things–hope and heartache, journeys and joviality, pleasures and pains–and more will come unto me still. But of all these things, of all these things little matters because none of them have held me back. I’ve kept on going through all my challenges, and I will keep on going through all my challenges. I will enter as I am and I will emerge anew, renewed, altered and transformed. Nothing is static anymore. Eventually we see that all there is, is something else in the end. Everything is changing. So are we. So is the world.
Every night the sun sets. Some nights the moon turns its eye away. Some nights the clouds cast aside the stars. But the wind blows the sky free. The moon opens its eye and smiles upon us. The sun comes back.
And so the world returns.