October 27, 2009

Uncaring Night

I peeled back the curtain that night, for some unknown reason. Even as I lay in bed and pulled the covers around me tight, I reached out one bare arm into the cold and looked out into the night. The black sky surprised me, I don’t know why. For some reason I expected it not to be black, despite the lateness of the hour. I live in the city, so even the slightest wisp of cloud taints the sky with pink city-glow. The moon casts silver light, or the starts move. But there was no moon this night and without my glasses I could not glimpse the stars. It all melded into a seamless matte black, stark contrast against the spot-lit stone of the Capitol tower.

It seemed a black more dark, metaphorically, this night than I had ever perceived before. I have always reveled in the untamable places – the mountains, the sky, the sea, the Sandhills. I have loved the uncaring nature of their beauty, that indifference that makes all my plans and schemes and fears come to naught. But tonight the dark universe seemed different – not malevolent, just apathetic.

I realized that the stone, the night, the wind really don’t care. They don’t care about our paltry attempts to tame them. They don’t care about my own anxious ambition or my gnawing doubt. They don’t care if I am a serial killer.

Always before their stoic faces were a relief from the always unraveling expectations of my day to day life. I have to be this person or that person, a student, a writer, a worker, a friend. But in the presence of the unseeing trees I had to be no one. I could be anyone and thus I could be myself.

But I could be anyone. I could be evil incarnate and the sun would rise and set, the moon and the tide would continue their dance, the mountains would shrug their mighty shoulders.

I shivered and closed the curtain and curled into my deep bed, reassured by the warm weight of my cat on the blankets. She cares. I realized then how truly special we are in all the universe – not just human beings, but dogs and cats and perhaps even the unseeing trees, for who knows what they perceive and whether or not they think slow thoughts – life, as it were. We care.

The miracle is not that the stone endures of the fusion engines still burn in the sky, but that we manage to care enough for one another that we are still here. We – are – still – here. The miracle is that we continue to care for one another, as best we can – not just the human beings, but dogs and cats and even the unseeing trees.

Those of us godless heathens like to explain the universe by saying that what exists exists because it can exist. If the laws of physics had worked out even a microt differently, if gravity or the speed of light or any of a number of variables had shaken out into a different constancy, than the stars would never have formed, nor the planets, nor life, nor us. But existence is the way it is because that was the only way it could be. Those with more faith like to say god made it so. The truth is, I believe, unknowable. After all, we weren’t there.

We are here now and that is the true miracle of existence, because gravity and light don’t care. The stars don’t care whether or not they burn or the planets whether or not they form. We care and that is beautiful.

Why we care is a question for another night.

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