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"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather my spark burn out in a brilliant blaze than be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy, permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." ~Jack London

Saturday, November 03, 2007


Every day he comes in to report his findings. Some days he sees it, some days he doesn’t. Some mornings it illuminates the world better than all of the artificial lights in the universe combined, and some mornings it only peeks through the translucent haze of what lies between us, and everything. Sometimes it as a large as all of existence, and sometimes it is only a sliver of its former self. I know each feeling all too well. I know of the great waxing and waning of a life.

This morning it smiles at me beneath the great hollow space where the rest of it once glowed, its outline still lingering within the darkness. I think about the way I fill in that blank, and the way he doesn’t. I think about the way he enters the room brimming with excitement and joy after seeing “a moon” instead of “the moon,” as though each morning it is something different, something new. I think about the way I have learned to see this tiny splinter of silver in the grand blackness as being unfulfilled, incomplete, staring more intensely at the space where it is not than at what actually is. And I think about the way he has yet to notice that dark space, the way that minuscule slice of light is everything, the way life was once as simple as what there was to be seen.

I have Starry Night hanging on the wall at the foot of my bed. I often consider whether Vincent planned it that way, whether he could already see each stroke before he had even picked up a brush, whether he stared at that blank canvas and saw the entire universe. I consider each curve of light, and the way the simplicity of blues and yellows became as complex as the cosmos themselves. I consider the invitation they extend, to crawl up between the softness of their twisting lines, to snuggle into the delicate sweep of the golden moon.

And then I consider the town below, and how each lit house pales in comparison to all that burns above. I think of the people who live there, who are asleep, who are going about their daily life as though that was all there was, and all there would ever be. I think about how the vast majority of us don’t stare out into the distance, don’t spend our days atop a hillside creating beauty, don’t look at a blank canvas and see it alight with possibility. And I wonder, what are we waiting for?

Because we used to know how to do such a thing. We used to be able to draw a scribble on a white piece of paper and give it a name, a story, an entire lifetime. We used to believe that Harold’s purple crayon was the same magical Crayola we gripped so tightly between our fingers. Even if you can’t recall such power now, believe me, you knew it once. And like tiny Gods we stood above our creations and rejoiced in the prospect of showing our parents, our teachers, our friends, of sharing our gift with the people we loved most. We knew what it meant to believe.

The way Van Gogh trusted that the lines of his brush strokes would echo exactly those of the sky. The way Aidan points to every yellow circle and says “moon” with such authority that it becomes impossible to doubt its validity. The way Harold colored himself a moon, then an adventure, then an entire world, where once there was nothing. Nothing.

The way making life was as simple as creating it for yourself.