Time Yet For a Hundred Indecisions?
Imagine a world composed entirely of straight lines; a world formed entirely of intersecting planes. Straight lines, stretching as far as the eye can see, and meeting only at right angles. Picture the unbroken edges of cubes stacked upon cubes; a beauty like a colourless, pitiless parody of a Manhattan skyline. White and utterly featureless – can you see it yet?
A long time ago—when I first heard that I would need to write this—I promised myself one thing. I promised that I would do something different; keep myself safe from those ancient Sirens of cliché. I chose instead to tread an untraveled path, and the vision of a world both abstract and beautiful shimmered before my eyes.
Everything reduced to numbers, and a place for every statistic. There is no space for the amorphous or indeterminate in a crystalline world. Facts, easy to understand, are easily assimilated into it's unforgiving contours. And yet they mislead us so, these same facts.
Forcing yourself to write is, in essence, a form of controlled disintegration. You start with nothing, and then as you let your mental dams crumble there is a sudden swirling torrent of words, words, and more words that threaten to engulf you. You twist and turn—fish-like—in the deluge of ideas vast and sweeping, until finally it is all too much. It is all too much, and you are tired, and it is simpler to let yourself go limp and float where the waves will carry you. It gives you time to think.
I am more than the numbers that make me, aren't you? All of me cannot fit into that crystalline world. Into our world. A world which seeks to judge us all entirely upon our most superficial components. Does this word care about us? Can it even begin to understand that there is more to people—not just me and you, but everyone—than can be expressed through the statistics that it seeks to enfold us with? Is there space for beauty, for abstraction, and for the rounded curves that make our dreams?
We should, no doubt, be dwelling on the grander themes; on the responsibilities that Life brings with it, with the ultimate inevitability of Death, and the over-arching indifference of the Universe. However, all these pale into insignificance for the new adult, for graduation is a beast far harder to grapple with. It has no use for the rituals of our school days, for the endless, comforting circular conversations and inside-jokes that have gone on since we can remember. It circles, ever-closer, its fangs bared; ready to pounce and rip old lives to shreds, ready to destroy our hitherto secure existences—what do beasts care of our personal histories? That times change, this we know. What we never imagined was that we, too, would need to change with these times. We must find entirely new philosophies and rituals to deal with what lies outside those gates and beyond that last corridor. A trapeze without a safety-net—the intoxication of freedom coupled with the knowledge that there is no one to catch you any more.
“We slowed again,
And as the tightened brakes took hold, there swelled
A sense of falling, like an arrow-shower
Sent out of sight, somewhere becoming rain.”
(—Philip Larkin, The Whitsun Weddings.)
Here the lines between my parallel narratives seem to blur and to brush against one another. We are that rain, and this is our last moment of pause before gravity catches us and we fall into Life. Our one weightless instant as we reach what seems us to us the highest point of our trajectory and can see in equal parts what lies behind us and where we are headed. School is behind us, definitely, and in more ways than one, but where are we headed? Out... Out into that harsh, uncompromising world that might as easily revere us as use brute force to make us fit.
We have graduated, we have graduated, and all we can do is hope. Hope that we are hard enough to carve our own niches out into that world out there; hope that we are brave enough to continue to want to. Yes, in the long run we are all statistics, but why should we fear that now? Right now we are all individuals. Human, complete unto ourselves, but part of a larger whole.
We are fragmented and united, innocent yet disillusioned; we are each others' pasts, and part of each others' futures. We are permanent and at once ephemeral; and we are brothers and sisters and lovers and friends, all rolled into one. We are children, but children grown up, and we are adults, but only young adults. With our feet on the ground and our heads in the clouds, we are the force that will shape tomorrow's world, the same force that has had to be protected from today's world. We are a mass of contradictions, yes, but together we make sense.
Know this: this was written for you, whoever you might be. Should you be younger than me – heed these words and know that your time, too, shall come. Right now allow us our energy and our optimism; it isn't often that you feel as though the world were yours to change. If you should be older – then, too, these words are for you. Look past our hubris and see yourselves from so long ago. I'm sure you remember what this instant felt like; how it seemed more important than anything else. Do not tell us that it will fade, that it will dim in our memory; try not to gloat when we tell you that it has. If you should be my representative, then you already know what I mean to say through all this rambling. Spread those untested wings; bludgeon, charm, endear, or buy your way into the annals of history; insinuate yourselves into the pages of the Universe, and let everyone read your words.
“The last stroke of midnight dies.
All day in the one chair
From dream to dream and rhyme to rhyme I have ranged
In rambling talk with an image of air:
Vague memories, nothing but memories.”
(—William Butler Yeats, Broken Dreams.)
Know this, too: this was written for me, just as much as for you.
This was something I was asked to write for the yearbook of my graduating high school class. It was, I suppose, an attempt to explain my sudden sense of dislocation, and to remind myself that this was not an end, but a beginning.
Reproduced here with major modifications, not least of which is the absence of my name.
Many thanks to AspieDad for help with the editing.