“Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun.
But Mama! That’s where the fun is!'”
You know, whenever I sit down here to write, I usually have some idea where I’m going. If I think the piece is really important I’ll even have some research, notes and an outline. It’s a cut and dried affair those days. Sure, I love doing this blogging stuff, but on those days it’s more organized, more like work.
But some days are just different. Like today, for instance. I’m sitting here, my hands are shaking, my body in pain, my thoughts nearly incoherent even to myself. There are tears at the backs of my eyes trying to break through whatever auto-defense I have finally developed against them.
Yeah, I admit it. I’m pretty emotional. (This comes as a surprise to some who really should’ve already known this. That they don’t says more about them than I ever could.) I cry about alot of stuff. To be sure, I try to laugh an equal measure. But therein lies the fib: I don’t try to cry. I try not to.
Wherever you are, sometime today or tomorrow go outside and check out the sun. Yeah, I could link to some really cool pics of Sol from NASA or The Royal Society, but the real thing is what I want to show you. I can’t link to that. You have to stand up and just look for yourself. Don’t take anyone with you, go it alone. Stand there for a second, and just let your mind go wherever it wants to. Don’t just use your eyes, but listen and smell the world around you.
Take it in, as much of it as you can. Is it raining? Let it touch you. Is the wind blowing? Let it mess your hair. Are there birds, flies, bees, ants and other crawling and flying creatures? Let them live, just this once. You can tell them so, if you like. They will definitely appreciate your mercy.
Just stand there a moment with your eyes open, silent, breathing, taking it all in. You are a part of all this, and at least once in your life you need to feel that. If all the cities, all the technology, all the cars and trucks and planes and machines of civilization are gone tomorrow, you will still be a part of everything you see out there.
There’s no way to really reproduce that world on your internet, you know. Not yet, at least. We can draw pictures, we can create algorithms to imitate the wind’s effect on our penciled-in digital habitats. We can do some really amazing things with all this new technology. But nowhere is it possible to actually create anything that is real.
We know that, of course. Same as we know that Star Trek is just a TV show. And a really cheesy show, at that. Nevertheless, it’s still one of my, and millions of others’, favorites. We use a trick that’s called ‘suspension of disbelief’. Humans have been doing that for eons. It’s one of the things that sets us apart from the other animals on this planet.
We can choose to believe something that we know is not real. I don’t know of any other animal that has ever shown this trait. Sometimes I think that this one thing is what allowed humans to become dominant on Earth. Opposable thumbs and all the other differences I learned in school? Each of those things can be found in some other animal. Our conquest of Earth is most likely not the result of a physical trait which only we have.
It seems to me that it’s this ability of humans not just to lie, but to lie believably to themselves that is the real difference. We all do it every day, about little things and big things. I’m not going to name any here, just let that thought enter your mind as you’re standing outside taking in the sun for that short moment. Open up to what is real, for just a moment. See what is around you. Listen to it. Let yourself be a part of it, at least for a moment.
In the long span of your life, that’s all it is. Once you’ve come back here to your machine, the moment is over, and maybe soon forgotten. But maybe you got something there, over at the window, out on the balcony, or your porch, or the yard, or the crowd-filled street. Maybe you saw it, or heard it or smelled it and it sticks with you.
What you do with it is up to you. So few things are ‘up to you’ anymore. Have you noticed that as the number of our available choices increase, we seem more and more locked into what we’ve chosen before? From where we decided to live years ago, to the kind of work we do, to the social sites we use online, we lock ourselves into a view of us that we increasingly control less and less.
To be sure, we can choose to change any or all of it at any time. But doing that has consequences. If we move to another city, what becomes of our current relationships? If we change jobs, what happens to our sense of security? If we walk away from Facebook or MySpace, what becomes of our online persona, our reputation?
Here is where we lie to ourselves. We stay where we are because we lie to ourselves. We cease to move forward and instead make ourselves believe we already have the best of all possible worlds. Whatever change we want, we convince ourselves that the costs are too high. Or that soon, we will do it, when the time is more right. We put off the decision, and that is our decision. But we lie and say that we’re ‘thinking about it’ or ‘planning’.
Sometimes it seems to me that there’s a button in each of us. It’s the ON/OFF switch for our possibilities. When we believe our own lies, we are putting that button in the OFF position. When we see clearly, when we are most closely connected with what exists naturally around us, when we choose to believe what we know to be real, we are ON.
I am Jon, a human soliton.