We sit on our couches in the dripping wet moss of the Pacific Northwest, or high desert, land-locked mountains, or sunny beach communities, and we watch a swirling dark cloud whip up people’s lives in a place we don’t know. We feel horrible, we feel slightly comforted that we are not them, we feel sad and helpless.
We are all flabbergasted by the seemingly random, potentially disastrous and sometimes instantaneous way life can knock us sideways. In times like this, we tread along similar thought patterns of self-soothing–prayer, anguish, altruism–because even if we were not near that town, buried under that rubble, we know, even fixate on the idea that bad things can happen at any moment. To us too. Sudden, devastating tornadoes are symbols of the impermanence and unpredictability of everyone’s life. It is this constant, most basic and low-frequency fear that drives us to seek out vices and means of control.
My mode of control is thought. I will think a thing to death. I will flip it over and over between my fingers–one by one and back and forth like a drummer with his drumstick–until there is a glimmer of sense to be made. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because it forces me to be honest, to stay curious, seek information, use my brain. A curse because there is never a definitive answer and I am often wrong.
My primary focus has been people. If I can figure out why people feel, and do, and behave, then I can feel safer, more able to predict the future, more in control of my world. I have learned a lot about people this way, but it is not with other people that I am most concerned. The person I’m preoccupied with figuring out is, of course, myself. If I have learned anything over the years, it is that this is an impossible task.
People are as different and intricate in their thoughts and reasoning as the composition of the universe. There is simply no outer edge to human potential which is, in itself, a scary/comforting thought. There is no quantifiable algorithm that will make people suddenly make sense to me. It is impossible to discover the secret to suffering and pain and love and hate and love, because those things hold no definitive quality or concrete definition. They are forever moving, always out of reach like the funny shapes that move under your eyelids. As am I in any given day.
People are as crazy, hopeless, fantastic, capable, blinded and varied as the stars, and yet, at he same time, we are the same. It’s a circular thought. Our name might be Jane, or Randy, or Natalia or Xerxes; we may speak different languages, want different things, but we all still want… and feel, and try, and love in various combinations of each.
Science thinks it knows these things better than all else. I know, because I love science. Why do I love science? Because science is the pinnacle modality of control. Inarguably its goal is to quantify the world, deduce it down to elemental parts. It uses formulas and statistics and empirical data! to prove we are all knowable and known. Don’t you love the word empirical? But science has an outer edge.
And when you reach the outer edge of anything you can do two things: turn back, retrace your steps and tread a deeper path along the only thing you’ve ever known; or… you can close your eyes, muster up a little faith, and jump.