Friday, May 11, 2012

Get Down With the Darkness

One of the first things they teach you about land navigation is that it's easier to find your way in the dark than by daylight.  This is largely because there's nothing distracting you from the path that you chose.  People talk about going to that "dark place" in their soul whenever they get angry or sad.  Think of how much we can learn to do by being in the dark- hell, for that matter - think how much we learned as we came out of the Dark Ages.

Let me preface: I am personally petrified of the dark.  I refer, of course, to literal darkness and not metaphorical.  There's just something about an unfamiliar - or even, familiar - dark place that creeps me out to no end. This may have something to do with the boogeyman that lived in the basement of my childhood home.

I first discovered him when I was about five.  My parents would change up punishments, and that night's involved standing in a corner, facing the wall.  The time would vary based on severity of punishment (10, 20, or 30 minutes); it all felt like a year when I was that age.  The first - and subsequent - occasions I encountered our ‘guest’, I was in a corner next to the basement door.  I heard a soft thumping noise working its way up each step at a regular interval - not a dramatic, "someone's messing with you," kind of thing: I thought my father might have been coming out of his little hardware corner of our basement with the pacing on these steps.  Except, he and the whole family was seated at the dining room table behind me.

There was a lull in thumping as I heard the last step mounted.  A soft tapping, like the clicking of dog nails on hardwood floor, emanated from the frame while the door was visibly pushed outward.  The handle began to squeak as it swirled, rocking up and down.  With a soft, metallic ‘thunk’ it disengaged, and the door started to open.  I threw myself at the gap, using my maladroit body to hold back whatever was on the other side.  I was scolded for playing with the door while being punished, and nobody believed me about a ghost in the basement.

This would happen on and off for the next few years.  I'd see a shadow move through rooms that I knew were empty.  On other occasions, I'd see an unfamiliar face looking out from the windows while playing in the backyard.  I had a very vivid dream about him once - very nice chap, just, very, very alone.  The house was sold at a great discount as the previous resident leveled a hunting rifle with his forehead.  I'd say he was a little depressed.

I could never see him clearly. I mean, being a ghost - or figment of my overactive, young imagination (yeah- still pretty sure it was a ghost) - it's not like I would high-five him over a breakfast of banana-walnut pancakes.  If I closed my eyes, though, I could sense this presence - I was aware of shape, and size; mass and limbs; hands and eyes.  When I denied every sense that would tell me no one was there, I saw perfectly.

As humans traversed the Dark Ages they tried to explain everything in plain sight.  Blood maladies, nature, and demonic sprites were their enemies.  They believed the source of these conflicts came from distant lands, bad science, and mysticism, which all afforded more insight than their own religions.  They lived a life that repurposed everything they felt with everything they could see.

Life is trying to distract you.  Even this post could be a distraction.  Life doesn't want you to remember that with each passing day, it’s winning.  Life, and the way the world has been wrapped around you, is hell-bent on making you believe the only place you belong is as a cog in a larger machine.  Life is moving your arms and legs through the race to become the largest cog in the clock that is counting down your days.

This is only a contest if you're wasting your time racing it.  It is, after all YOUR clock.  Stop, smell the flowers, make some friends, enjoy the sunshine.  Most importantly, don't worry about running the same course life is pushing you down: when the darkest days wrap around you - as they will, like a horribly designed snuggie - find where you want to be, plot the course, and trek through that darkness.  When you find daylight, don't lose sight of that goal - march down the streets, blind if you have to.  Your head will always want you to go the logical way, full of sensible, rational decisions; your heart will tell you the best way to find yourself, and whisper all the ways in which you should ignore your head. 

Blind yourself to the paths everyone else wants you to go along, and choose your own footing.  They cannot make that choice for you; they don't have to live with the consequences.  Be proud of who you are, and don't be afraid to be in the dark a little more often.

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