There are two types of people in the world: those who divide people into two types, and everybody else.
There are two other types of people in the world: those who realize that given any parameter people can be binned logically and convenienly according to the argument one wishes to make.
Then, for instance, there are people who believe the government is hiding evidence of UFOs, and there are those that don't. There are those who believe in the shooter on the grassy knoll, and those who don't. Some people believe in ghosts and some don't. Given any administration there are people who believe the president is a dottering fool and those who don't.
One that's particularly important to me is this one: there are those who eventually come to believe in big invisible things. And the subsequent execution of life after conscious realization of that belief is responsible for most of the trouble in the world.
Then there's everyone else.
Statistically speaking, most people on Earth are Buddhist.
Kurt Vonnegut said the only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.
That's almost enough for me. But I have other things that belong to me. What I treasure about my own things is I can't prove them. I can't show them to you. I can tell you about them and you can say, "Hey, you made that up," but I know I didn't.
I've seen the world. With my own eyes I've seen ill-tempered, sociopathic scum achieve the highest altitudes of success. I've seen good souls die horrid, painful deaths. Innocents dead of terrible disease. Hurricanes take out entire cities, young and old, good and bad, the faithful along with the sinners. I have seen it happen with my own eyes.
Everyone dies and there's no dissonance in my mind because of it. The world is constructed to allow it. You can spend your breath blaming the invisible things, but it will do you no good. No one knows where lightning comes from, yet people are killed by lightning every year. Now we know lightning comes all the way from outer space, through sprites and elves, to the clouds to the ground. We can't blame clouds anymore. And tornadoes go where they go. It's chaos. We even have a theory for it. We call it "chaos theory", as if to say "we understand this, too." But we don't.
It has always been this way. People have written books and Bibles and Korans and Bhagvad Gitas and clay tablets and nothing has changed. The earth in the universe is smaller than a sand grain on a beach.
And some people come to believe in the invisible things because of it, and some in spite of it.
Volcanos erupt. The sea floor opens. Ice slips off Antarctica. The glaciers all melt and uncover the dinosaurs. Tsunamis wash away everything we own.
If I am killed tomorrow by a falling chunk of interstellar iron, be certain that amidst all the trouble in the world all I needed to prove the existence of God was you.
There are two types of people in the world: those who believe the invisible things provided by their religion follow certain rules, and those who think the rules are invisible too.
Sometimes the invisible things are terrifying. Some people are afraid they'll be noticed being scared. Other people have no problem running around as if there are mousetraps everywhere.
Your letter came today. Written on the deck of a ship leaving Disco Bay. Passing icebergs bigger than New England cities.
Natives flensed seals. Red seeped into the brilliant white ice. Smudges of the once living spread like errant brush strokes. Curtains of aurora, green and flowing. Northbound, the long dark winter approaches. Which year? Which ship?
The ropes are coarse against my palms. The sails aloft. We'll ride the storm as far as the ice allows. Anchor when the winds howl. Below the coal fires burn deep orange. Below we'll talk about the past. Display cherished photographs withdrawn from ragged leather wallets. Circulate pieces of life we've left, just to prove we had them. I lived this. I read this. I wrote this. Which ship? What year?
Some people know themselves very well, and other people think their heads are full of mystery. I dreamed of Discovery Bay for a lifetime before I stood on its shores. And I knew how the weathered hundred-year old wood would feel under my fingertips, peering out the rippled hut window where they saw Macintosh disappear. I knew how the carbonized stoves would smell. Hefted the axes. Touched Frank Wild's signature on the wall. Felt the cold get under my parka. I told it, "not this time," as if there had been one before.
There is a path to life that is huge and invisible and when I think of it I'm reminded there are illusions and things that are more solid than rock. And I know you can get out of bed one day and start moving and not stop till you get to where the world ends south. Now north. Ilusisat, Disko Bay, Narsarsuaq. Two hours in Nuuk. Satellite time. Speed of light. Boots on ice, forward while you sent this communication:
Take each step one at a
time. In mountaineering, high up on the slope, you are
always supposed to plant your foot before the next step, make
sure it is firm and will hold you, take a breath, then
take the next step.
I am writing this where you can see it. I'm putting this where it will find you no matter how far away you are, no matter how many thousands of years are between us. No matter how many miles. It would be a lie to make you think it doesn't scare me. But I don't have it in me to run around avoiding unseen mousetraps.
So if I have to, know that I can do it. I found you amid the boulders of the terminal moraine of the Rhone Glacier, in a place where fewer than fifty people ever planted their feet, and I became the fifty-first. I kissed you under the eaves of the hut at Winter Quarters Bay, and held your hand on the slopes beside the Earth's only active volcanic lake. What year? Which storm?
Do not doubt that despite all the trouble in the world, I can find you at Ultima Thule.
I have been there before. I have help, large and invisible and they're asking me if I want to go. All I have to do is nod and I'll be on the plane to the aurora.
Sometimes it's terrifying. But at I know that at the end of the journey you'll be there. There's a reason I'm discovering. I will find my soul this time. I won't die before I do.
September, 2005. North America. West Coast. Please answer.