Consider if you will…baby teeth. They could be seen as precursors to growth and revitalization, but more realistically are motile, sharp bones that shiver into place inside malleable, pink, pulsing gums. Baby teeth are white shell-like children that shudder through oral birth canals, excited to breathe air only to be recycled. Baby teeth are unwittingly born to know death.
We too are born unwittingly, screaming into the ripe and stinking air, and then mistakenly think this air is our own. To think that we have control and ownership over our accidental lives is a great ignorance. We are great in number, of value only to our mothers and sometimes to our fathers, and generally highly replaceable. I also venture to say that if we were used as currency, we too would be worth only cents.
The reality I am hinting at is that we do not matter, or we matter very little. In order to venture further into this train or, rather, tunnel of thought, we must abandon this misconception. Do not fret; I do not matter either. It is difficult to release this notion because for some reason we are told from very early ages that we do, in fact, matter and that our lives somehow do carry meaning — although again this idea is ludicrous, and we know this instinctually in those moments when we feel “blue” or “in a funk.”
Our guardians lovingly take our shiny, rubbery cheeks between their hands and inflate us with impossible visions of grandeur, verbally painting versions of ourselves we search to construct and attain all our lives. But then we look into the mirror around the age of twelve and see a pudgy, shimmering, vaguely smelly child-in-transition caked in unoriginal ideas that an uneducated, uncultured tween society has picked out for us. During these important moments when we stand naked, foldy, slouching, and farty before a mirror, we are at last old enough to feel sad without direct reason.
Hark! This is the surfacing of that fundamental truth that our guardians so often fail to teach us in their well-meaning but misguided quest to paint the world as a kindly cradle. This is reality knocking upon our door, trying to show us through grayscale and frustratingly inexpressible emotions the truth of this life. These moments of disconnect from the earth, these instances of discomfort when we occupy spaces of stillness and non-life are indeed reality.
It may be a difficult truth to swallow. The objective of this exercise is not to provoke anger or frustration but to better understand ourselves and the spaces we occupy. But, indeed, how do we cope now that we know, perhaps with a shock, we are nothing? What can we do with our inch of space atop this squishy, warm, smelling gum and with our striking closeup view of the wrinkly lip?
The better question is what can’t we do? Well, of course, there are many things. (That question was rhetorical.) But now we know our reality. We know the truth.
And so I ask with bated breath, can you feel it? Can you see and hear both everything and nothing, all at once? Now that we know the truth, it is possible for us to experience things for what they are… we can push open the ugly, beige doors and feel the cold metal against our palms like a strange embrace. We can feel the crisp night air sweeping against the skin that will one day die, knowing that in the night’s chimes and whistles there could be something greater than us. We can sit by fires on occasion, close our eyes, and hear water sealed up inside the light, roaring and cascading within the flames that burn just as we sometimes do; we can open our eyes and be pleasantly surprised by ashes that seek to climb higher and then taper off into the deepest blue. In any space, we can suck in the fullness of emptiness, or feel like a hot knife the emptiness of fullness; we are to know that all of this is nothing, and that this understanding is everything.