I’ve been thinking recently about the middle ground. It’s so easy to focus on opposing options. Right or left, yin or yang. But, perhaps, the real magic in life is the infinite space between those two.
I guide myself through life using a series of principles, quotes, ideas or goals but I often think of my destinations as a fixed point that I constantly aim for. What if instead I imagined myself as an object in space adjusting the gravitational forces to and from other objects, people or ideas floating around with me? What if I let myself be pulled towards those forces that I found to be positive or attractive and pushed from those that aren’t, like opposing magnets? What if I let the destination just be unknown?
Most of my life I’ve found the beauty in collisions. Without destruction, how else would I know there was something there in the first place? The pieces fly apart and I remember what it’s like to feel again, even if just the bad feelings. It’s addictive and I start to believe that everything else must have been imaginary because they didn’t register high enough on the Richter scale. I never did know what they felt like anyways.
I think the fear of living a life that avoids these collisions is that I will just wind up in an empty space of “quiet desperation.”1 In an absolute view, the option to avoid that is by living a life of loud desperation. So that’s what we do and find the joy of having felt something (we being myself and others I see as addicted to the darkness in life).
This is where, I think, self destruction begins. I get so turned around that I don’t know which way is up, never fully realizing that there is no up or down. I allow myself to get pulled through space like a hapless comet. I lose chunks of myself wherever I go and I gain layer after layer of an icy shell. I tell myself this is the fault of those things floating around me, that space is cruel and all I can do is hope one of these collisions won’t destroy me completely.
But it’s a all a lie I tell myself to hold onto the cold and the pain. It becomes my identity and the only thing I understand. I can’t lose it (and, in turn, myself) so I direct my life, unknowingly, towards minefields of astroids and space junk. I secretly hope for the collision that will be loud enough to knock me completely off course.
It’s all a lie I tell myself to avoid the realities of what else might lie before me, the fear that I will make the wrong choices or choose the wrong destination.
It’s all a lie I tell myself so that I can say I avoided “quiet desperation” and, in doing so, I miss the point completely. I have accepted desperation as the immutable fact of life, aimed for a louder form of it and landed squarely on the only thing I ever tried to avoid.
I haven’t stopped enjoying the beauty of the collision but I’ve grown tired of rebuilding myself. I’ve started to see that I may be able to find beauty and feel things without desperation and, at the same time, acknowledge that I’ll still feel it sometimes too. I see a path for the middle ground, destination unknown and I think I should give it a try.
Note that I included this cover of Space Oddity because I love it but also because the lyrics have been revised. The song contains some specifics related to Chris Hadfield’s experience on the International Space Station and no longer includes the imminent death of Major Tom.
For Chris, who always encouraged me to write but who was the only person I thought really got it. Maybe there are others out there, after all.