The Last One
**I tried to write this one more like a monologue, hoping it would reflect how I actually talk. Sorry it took me 6 weeks to post it! xx**
I’ve lately become obsessed with the immensity of time and space. Like that billions of years ago, dinosaurs roamed the earth, these enormous things, with their tiny ass brains and huge ass bodies. It must have taken forever for them to run away from predators, because by the time their tiny ass brains knew they were in danger it had to then send a message like miles to their legs to move. Good thing they probably just stomped all the danger away. Until that asteroid. And what about that asteroid? Apparently it was the size of Manhattan. An asteroid the size of a huge metropolis hurtling towards earth and then wiping out all life above ground.
It’s unbelievable, like in a palpably exciting way. Like in a everything in the world is a miracle way. Like in a grateful, wondrous way. Were there dinosaurs in Cambridge? Maybe. Except the layout of the continents didn’t looks then like they do now. Because we are moving slowly across the water even while the earth is spinning, pretty quickly I think. I don’t know how fast (or slow), but we’re moving, even when we feel still. Sometimes when I am meditating I become convinced I can feel it, can feel my body rooted to the gravity of the earth’s core, can feel myself spinning slow or fast, below or above some abyss.
How is it the earth was created? How is it the earth exists at all in the immensity of space? Inside the hugeness of this universe, and the universe that holds that and out and out and out? The big bang had to have been a miraculous happening. That from nothing some atoms collided (or whatever science-y thing you want to say happened), and then over the course of years and years and almost an eternity of years somehow we came to be--humans with our ability to actually contemplate our own existence. It just... affects me.
I saw the first Lord of the Ring’s movie in the theatre six times. That’s 18 hours of my lifespent inside the Krikorian Theatre in Redlands, California watching Frodo decide whether or not to that take that stupid ring to Mordor. And each time I saw it I would come home wrecked. The slow motion scene right after they escaped the mines of Moria, after Gandalf falls into that abyss and we all think he’s died, when Aragorn and the little hobbits are all mourning, their little curly faces contorted--that would undo me. My brother Mark had died that summer, so those faces seemed pretty familiar. And then Frodo would stand at the edge of that river, holding the ring in his hand and hear Gandalf in that boss voiceover, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” And you can see in his face, this decision he makes to live. I mean Elijah Wood is not the best actor, right, but somewhere inside him, inside this character, he finds some purpose, like some great calling that he is compelled to respond to. And then he pushes himself off in that boat, because he knows what he’s supposed to do.
And I was all, “What am I supposed to do?” I was 19 and I had no idea that this was how death would feel, that it would be this weight, this press to do, to love, to act, that you just don’t have the wherewithal to respond to. I wanted to be little Frodo standing on the edge of something concrete. Where he was going was so clear. And I couldn’t even figure out where I was to begin with.
A year after Mark died, I was a counselor at a girl scout summer camp in Julian, California. Julian is this sleepy ass town with a “main drag” consisting of five blocks of mom and pop shops (including a bakery that sells the best apple pie I’ve ever had). We were instructed to leave our cars unlocked with the keys in the front seat in the camp’s various parking lots, and we did, because who was gonna steal them? My job was eight weeks of transporting different groups of girls to and from crafting, hiking, making ice cream, and singing (or more accurately yelling) songs after lunch at the singing tree, among other awesome camp-related activities. During one of tne of the sessions we slept outside on cots. The girls slept in a grove of pine trees and the counselors slept in a clearing underneath the whole wide sky. It was like sleeping in a planetarium, only more incredible because it was like we were inside a breath, inside this infinite, sparkling, vast, unknowable thing. And I like to imagine I poured my grief into the sky, my grief and fear of my own death, of my parent’s death, of the death of everyone I would ever love, and it was like how I would yell at my mom about how she fucked up my body image, and her letting me be so mad, it made it better--this is what the sky did. It absorbed, it broke up, it redistributed. It released grief to the wind like Mark’s ashes. I call this God again now. I call this Him, for lack of a better pronoun. This the sky, this the leaves, this this class, and you all. But on that night and under those stars, I called it just Space.
I didn’t know it then, but I am a pinprick on this earth. The human life, all of it, from before Oetsi and on, is a short episode in the life of this incredibly extensive universe. And yet somehow here we are, contemplating from where we came, learning how to wonder. We are exploring our becomings, we are humbled by our biology. I think what I’ve figured over these past 13 years is finally what I’m moving towards, standing on the edge of my own insignificant river. I am moving towards this: how lucky are we to exist, here, now, anytime. What an undeserved gift is life, no less a miracle than that dinosaurs roamed the earth, or that the universe, God, I would say, is huge and unending, and I am a speck of dust.