Stop This Train

Five years is a long time. It’s been a long road to get here. Some days, it feels like a crushing weight is resting on my soul. Other days, it’s just a light sadness hovering over me, casting its shadow upon me. And on some rare occasions, I am happy; sometimes, I am okay. In those five years, I learned how to be functional, how to carry on, and how to live beyond any circumstance, be it tragedy or triumph.

It’s not all bad. There are good days. There are a lot of good things in my life. However, regardless of how far I travel from the loss, I will always carry it with me.

On the flip, five years is not a very long time. By the time I eventually pass away, I will have, theoretically, lived to look back on that day through the lens of thirty or forty years of distance. Telescoping out even further, what is five years compared to one hundred? Or one thousand? Or ten thousand? My life, let alone these mere five years, are but a speck of sand when viewed in the scope of all of history.

It leaves me hollow, and somewhat existential. I don’t necessarily feel sad, or angry, or depressed. I am simply tired. All of these thoughts cascade through my mind, along with hundreds more, each with their own subset of rabbit trails and rambling trails.

It feels as if I have lived five years in a single day, and, in a way, I suppose I have.

Roll Back The Time

Jim Sullivan loaded up his entire life into that dinky Volkswagen. Everything he loved was packed inside, and without a word, he drove into the desert. As he drove, he contemplated turning on the radio and letting the music ease his mind. Instead, he rolled the window down and listened to the chirping birds and singing crickets. He squinted as he travelled, the glow of the setting sun reflecting directly into his eyes from the rearview mirror.

It was indicative of his entire existence; he was never able to clearly see what was going on around him, the bright lights of L.A. blinding him to his purpose and disorienting his sense of internal balance. It’s not that anything was necessarily wrong, it was simply that nothing was right. He needed a change. He needed to get away from the cacophony of the music scene. The California way of life was all he had ever known, and nothing about it was fulfilling. Beneath all the glam and shine, nothing flourished except addiction and decay.

He had tasted the finer things in life, and he had been given the opportunity to pursue what he believed to be his dreams. In the end, he realized that he had been deceived, both by the world and by his own mind, into thinking that he could find what he was looking for in “the Scene.” Instead, all he found was a miasma of emptiness.

For a short time, he found himself burdened by depression, knowing that there was more to life than what he was seeing. His perception changed rather quickly, as he came to the conclusion that being tied down by his own mind was no way to live. He needed to free himself of all chains, of everything that kept him enslaved and encumbered.

So it was that he loaded up his clothes, his money, his records, and, the thing most dear to him, his guitar. He packed into the car and simply started driving, with no destination in mind. After the sun set, he pulled over and checked into a hotel in Santa Rosa. He could not bring himself to sleep though, and he paced the room for several hours before the wanderlust and the thirst for the horizon overcame him once more. He tossed his room key on the bed and hit the road once more.

Sullivan drove all night, lost so deeply in thought that he nearly slipped off the road a few times. He contemplated life, the universe, and what it meant to be human. He mulled over how, underneath all the hate and destruction that the human race carries with them, they have the capacity to be good, creative, and inventive. They, of all creatures in the world, have the propensity to take their surroundings and improve them, to make them truly wonderful.

This thought brought him hope and, to a certain extent, happiness. He knew that somewhere deep inside him was the innate ability to create something glorious. With just a drop of initiative, he could build himself a life worth living.

The sun eventually rose slowly from its slumber, lazily casting its gaze over the quiet landscape. In that instant, Sullivan knew that the time had come. He pulled over on the side of the road and shut off the vehicle. He sighed and ran his hands over the steering wheel. This hunk of shaped steel had carried him as far as it needed to, and now it was time for him to proceed without his trusty steed.

He slowly stepped out onto the gravel and shut the door. He looked up into the sky, basking in the reds and oranges of the dawn. The final few stars twinkled their last and snuffed out like candles, overpowered by the strength of the day star. The sight brought him a strange warmth and comfort.

He began to walk away from the car, leaving everything behind, taking nothing with him, into the open sands. Bathed in the growing sunlight, he entered this new world as a new man. No one ever saw Jim Sullivan again.

My Ex, The Machina

Someday, these imaginary chains will dissolve, and our potential will expand. The people will gasp in wonder, whispering “These are they who rule the galaxy.” Not by fear, or war, or threat, but by word, and thought, and deed.

The broken shall lead, those shattered, scattered, and torn shall stand tall and show the way.

We won’t be down forever. We’ll never be dead and gone. We wont bend our knees and kiss rings. Our lives will be our own.

Their wicked ways behind us, no longer owned by their greed, someday we will rise up as kings. Then we will truly be free.

Something To Be

Everything is arbitrary. Everything is naturally devoid of meaning. Everything is pointless. All these things going on around us, all the tragedy, all the travesty, all the horror, destruction, and decay…it’s all meaningless. And that fact is glorious.

The human potential to breathe purpose into their time on this planet is a near-godlike ability. Think about it: in its natural state, existence is nothingness and darkness, perfectly neutral, neither good or bad. Things simply…are. We assign good and evil to these events. When someone dies, we are the ones that decide it is sad. When crimes are committed, we are the ones who decide that those acts are evil. When someone saves the life of another, it is we who commend that individual for the “good” they have done.

We take this innate understanding of the ill-defined subjects of good and evil and we apply those labels to the things around us. We convene as a community to decide if acts committed were evil or not. We see the acts of nature, and we deem them to be good or ill on a whim.

This power makes us kings. It makes us creators. We take the circumstances by which we are surrounded and we create our own reality. We have the authority to revel and wallow in darkness or to rise above and change our position. We have the right to ignore the voices that say something is impossible, irreparable, or beyond saving and decide for ourselves if something is worthwhile.

It is marvelous, really. We have the power to give value to that which would otherwise be worthless.

It’s beautiful.

There is natural beauty. Sunsets, mothers with children, the singing of birds. And then there is beauty that supersedes all that is natural, being something completely original and unique: the act of taking a broken situation and imbuing purpose into a purposeless circumstance. Be it good or bad, right or wrong, tragic or triumphant, they take the meaningless and make it a moment worth living through.

The true testament of the tenacity and strength of mankind is their ability to stand tall among the scattered ashes of what was once considered a life, survey the destruction and the chaos, and rebuild. The propensity of man to reinvent himself after his near-complete annihilation is remarkable. The ability to not just find and live out a purpose, but to change direction and find a new purpose to pursue when everything they had previously built is stripped away, is what has inspired the human race to believe that they truly are in the image of god.

They are wonderful creatures. Not only can they influence the world around them, bringing life and purpose wherever they go, but they can even tame the most powerful being: themselves. Out of nothing, they create.

Explosions In The Sky

Floating in the darkness, watching the planets spin and orbit around a far-off star, there is utter silence. She watched, knowing the star would soon burn itself out, ending all life it supports, returning the solar system to its original state: quiet, inky dark. She turned her gaze to another star system, seeing at once the burgeoning life that was sprouting there, pondering the potential outcomes, and the courses and paths those tiny beings could put in place. The events in this relatively nearby solar system would have little to no impact upon them, no matter how catastrophic. Even with her billions and billions of years watching the universe, it was still curious to her that there was a limit to the so-called “butterfly effect.”

She allowed her mind to wander over all the other systems she had overseen, thinking of all the species that had risen and fallen, all the wars that had been waged, both natural and manufactured, all the knowledge that had been gained and lost, all the lives that had been lived, all the minutes that made up all the days of all the years, all those moments that, while universally insignificant, that had meant everything to someone. It was a thought that sometimes even she struggled to comprehend. Of course, given that this was her realm, she understood, but to her, sometimes it felt as though her creation was beyond even her mental grasp.

Her eyes wandered through the blinking heavens, landing once again on the dying star. It was not long now. To the beings on the planets it supported, it would be thousands of years in their eyes, but to her, it would be mere moments. It would sputter and flare before fizzling out, and ultimately, suddenly, the light would be no more. The heat it gave off would live on for quite some time, but the heat was nothing without the light. The planets would eventually crash into one another, breaking into trillions upon trillions of pieces, each floating off into the nothingness, away from every other.

Was it arbitrary? Was there any point to all of this? While every life was unique from every other, did any life really matter? Perhaps on a much smaller scale. It was conceivable that each moment of those beings’ lives was monumental to them, and to some extent, to those around them. But on a universal level, on the grand scale, none of it seemed to matter at all. Yet those little creatures carried on as if their every moment had cosmic significance.

It was likely a good thing that they could not comprehend just how miniscule they were. If they could see the universe in all its expansive grandeur, they would probably just cease to live from pure depression; the revelation of their insignificance would cause them to simply fade away…much like the star before her. She noticed a slight shimmer and crackle, and a soft smile crept onto her face. The time was soon upon them, and their defining moments would arrive. She had hope that they would greet their final days with grace and posture; at heart, they were a decent people. They went on their wayward travels, but when all was stripped away, they had a wonderful habit of rising to the occasion and showing their best.

All of time was hinged on those events. The life span of every intelligent species was a three act play; there was the birth and sudden arrival of the beings. Then, there was the fall; the beings would reach a public and open depravity, displaying their very worst. Then, finally, in their very final moments, they faced the sundown of their species with courage and strength. In between, there were thousands of years of fluff; years and decades and centuries of things that, while they carried the tale from one act to the next, they held no direct weight. The story rose and fell and rose again, making the cosmic theater worth watching; it was captivating, utterly, consumingly captivating. And that was where the individuals gained their universal value. Those tiny beings all impacted the outcome. They all bore the weight of the story on their shoulders, and they had full control of the course of the epic saga. While they were, on the surface, totally unnecessary, they were each intrinsic to the ultimate outcome.

Even to the embodiment of death itself, a being considered by some creatures to be a deity of one form or another, that concept was inspiring and uplifting. It was the very reason she allowed the universe to continue playing out as it had for all this time. Perhaps someday she would bring the theater to a conclusion and move on to another venture, but for now, it still moved her deeply, and she considered it to be her crowning achievement. Carry on, little ones; despite all your many flaws, you still manage to captivate the gods.

A Cruel And Sweet Mistress

Stoplights change, and change again. Trains pass by slowly, coming and going without a thought. The sun rises and sets again and again. Church bells toll, and on a nondescript day, nondescript people shuffle quietly into a room intended for comfort in the most trying of times.

Those in attendance speak with quivering voices in hushed tones, praying silently to gods they neither understand nor believe in, wishing themselves to wake from their grief. But there is no reprieve from this depth of pain; no healing but time.

Time. Our sweet, cruel mistress. Time, tragic and gracious, quietly carries us onward. On from our struggles, on from our triumphs, and on from our wounds. One thing it cannot carry us away from is the scar that remains, the mark that is left on us, the visual memory of the hurt. These scars may fade as memory fails, but they never truly leave us, occasionally reminding us of our loss with phantom pains that come as swift and unexpected as cold water during a deep sleep.

Those moments will leave us gasping, desperately grasping for peace. That peace may seem to slip beyond our reach for a while, but time has a way of bringing it back around in season. And sometimes that thought is all that is left for us to hold onto.

The cruelest, yet sweetest, thing that time perpetually brings to the forefront of our minds, is that no matter what has happened, the world kept turning. No matter what is happening, the world is still turning. And that one day, something shocking and terrible will happen, long after we are all passed beyond the veil, and despite the horrendous nature of that event…the world will move on. The world will grip tight the hand of time and continue to carry on as it always has. And that is both comforting and sad, but that is the way of life. Cruel and sweet.

The Warrior’s Dilemma

Staring out across the plain before him, he sighed deeply. The sun was setting, and a quaint breeze gently caressed his cheeks. Birds sang quietly, off in the trees several hundred yards to his right. High overhead, a hawk circled in a hunting pattern. He eyed the hawk jealously, wishing he still had something to hunt.

He sniffed the air, realizing that the scent of fresh blood had not been on it for some time now. He had seemingly vanquished his last foe. What was a warrior to do when there was no war left to be waged? It was not in his blood to beat his swords into plowshares when the battle was won. There had always been another enemy on the horizon ahead, some new reason to keep his weapons drawn.

An old lullaby from his childhood played in the background of his mind.

“Mama, lay my guns in the ground, cuz I can’t use them anymore…”

He had no more use for them, but he had no purpose without them, it seemed. They were just as much a part of him as his lungs. They felt more than vital for his very survival. For a long time, his survival had leaned heavy upon their effectiveness. Now, he had no identity apart from the machines of war he wore on his hip.

A choice lay before him, if it could be called that. For what purpose does a soldier have in peacetime? What possible good does his only skillset have in times of tranquility? His existence has been planted firmly in chaos and death; when neither can be found, what can he do? What does he do now that steel and lead have taken a path apart from tearing flesh from bone?

He was so good at what he did, too. None had the expertise to rip a soul from a man’s body like he did. The thought made him shiver. What separated him from the monsters he fought was a very thin line. Perhaps he was the only monster left alive. Perhaps it was time for a new warrior to arise and end him as well.

Or perhaps he could lead what was left of his life on some Quixotian quest, searching for what imaginary demons might be lurking in the shadows, and what evils lie hidden behind the guise of windmills. Perhaps he could convince himself that he was still necessary.

Or maybe the only way to end the curse of war was to die in peace. If he truly was the only fighter left standing, maybe if he could die without raising his hands in destruction ever again, the world could be cured of the disease that had plagued it ever since brother struck down brother all those millennia ago.

If indeed that evil had been laid to rest for good, it was time to let the sun set on his wicked ways as well. For in times of evil and darkness, one must fight the enemy using their own dark ways. However, when the light shines again, there is no place for such things. There is no room for the furies of war in a world of peace. His time had come and gone.

And so he was left behind, it seemed. His work had been done, and now he must find out what happens after the gunslinger rides off into the sunset. It was time to face his own fate, whatever that might be. His chapter in the great annals of time had come to a close, and he must fade into the murky memory of legend and myth. He had lived a good life. Or perhaps the horrible things he had done to achieve peace and all the lives he had snuffed out precluded him from saying that. At the very least, he had lived a full life, and there was no room in it for the calm that had come to settle on the land. It was time for him to disappear.

The wind gave a sudden surprising gust, and his coat flapped violently, he leaned his head back and outstretched his arms to either side. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. And then, as quickly and silently as the night, he was gone.