I woke a few mornings ago, as the half-dream automatic pilot took over. My hands were blindly searching the table top near the bed for my glasses. Not found, the search spread in wide, sweeping arcs to either side of me, on the smooth sheets. It was impossible not finding them. In my whole life of bad vision only twice have I truly misplaced the technology that lets me see clearly. Doing so meant a long, methodical and arduous search process with only the tactile senses available to me. I would be able to see light, but all images of things in the world would be blurred softly together, indistinguishable from each other. Then, suddenly I realized I could see clearly already, and the hint of panic subsided. Something new was in play: the overnight lenses that actually breathe better than the surface of the human eye.
I have my own secret and private world. Actually, a few of them. It’s the same world everyone else occupies. One is very easy and absolute to experience. Sometimes, rarely, I walk out into the world wearing no corrective lenses. I see everything as God, or nature, intended for me to see it. I will walk down crowded streets passing large fuzzy blobs of people with their indistinguishable details of clothing choice, hair styles, and only hints of bodily shapes. It is thrilling, and probably dangerous. I am incognito. I will walk right by people I would otherwise know without realizing it, or acknowledging them. I will hear disembodied hello’s to me, not recognizing the speaker. I can make people angry with me this way.
But how else am I to truly see the light and colors of night-time? The spectral blobs of bright store signs flashing for attention. Or the ghostly smooth drift of cars. Or a voice coming at me from a flesh-toned sphere, while all I have to believe or disbelieve is their words? Listening to words, and seeing no eyes — no human face. It is a cold and isolating thing. It is unbelievable.
After a while, you begin to hear things in voices, the subtleties in the formation of sound by the lips and throat. The pause between words speaks. The tone tells of purpose, and feeling. I become aware of having something pushed into me, or lulled out. I can hear circles, lines and blocks. Sometimes I will say, I cannot see your face, and there is always a pause of skepticism, contemplation, and then a test. In their silence I will see hints of movement in their spherical head and know they are up to something. And I will ask – what are you doing? And they will laugh about their unusual situation. I enjoy that.
Eventually I will return myself to clarity through our technologies and begin again the more efficient navigations. So many tiny details come into focus — the details of so many objects all around. And in many ways, it makes me question this efficiency, or this purpose, that warrants so much attention. The television screen that moments ago was a dimly flashing square of light. The traffic sign that was a big red ball in the middle of emptiness. The phone that was indistinguishable from what must have been the floor. And the sense of not knowing.
But then I look up to the stars, seeing each one as a crisp speck of white, where before there was nothing but blackness. I think of Mike and I looking through other lenses, seeing two galaxies in collision. And Johnny, amidst the network of listening. I think of history, and animals. The war of the worlds.
And Larry in his big magazine shop, smoking on the corner. And Keith, bless him, still singing to everyone about love. Coleen, and the lizards walking at her upright on hind legs. And little Bennett, still with the whole world a blur to him, but with his forceful “Tah tah tah!”
Restless Pete, exploring beyond the bounds, questioning and saying so. Sean, trying to fit every possible thing into neat little squares, and actually making progress! And the other Mike, creating so much beauty that few would ever suspect. Amy and the other Pete, separately, digging so hard, risking so much, to liberate truths.
Jake, whose picture you see above, is biting my feet as I write this. He wants me to throw the ball for him. He’ll turn me bloody if I don’t, or, I could choose to curb his enthusiasm. For a while, while we play fetch, as he runs to get the ball then bring it back, I was thinking of a discussion amongst some physics-y people we were having. Basically, why is there something, rather than nothing? You might be surprised how crazy scientists can get over such a thing, when they bother to consider it. It’s also very telling how far each is willing to lean over into the philosophical, or how much of the empiricist bent they’re willing to sacrifice, or cling to. And how far some philosophers are willing to tread into hubris, believing all things are eventually describable and knowable by humanity.
But as the “arrow of time” seems to point in one direction, and we are predisposed to conceive temporal origins in nothingness, you might imagine just how murky the waters can become. In this, people create no conscious deception and there is no concealment of truth. It’s a fuzzy thing, not entirely discernible. Deception would be inefficient and counter-productive. Yet people definitely have their opinions and beliefs, and are unafraid to bring them to the light for everyone to see, consider, discuss, shoot down, validate, etc.
Why is there something, rather than nothing? And with all the lenses we have to look at something, nothing cannot be seen. Maybe it’s a trick of language, or an aesthetic affront from reason. Maybe nothing never was, or time plays tricks, or isn’t really…
So, at least we know, we have this something, that we have. It’s all around. It’s further than we can imagine. But we have this something. Rather than nothing.