The following is not a poem, but an excerpt from a play I'm writing, my first play. It's about what it's like to be a human being and the nature of consciousness. Working title:
A Question of Crocodiles
A full-bodied, participatory celebration of the absurdity of reality
Note to actor: It's obvious to say, but each word was chosen carefully. Try to make the leaps.
The tone: Trying to work something out. Concerned, but not urgent. Methodical, with a very soft, tender center. In an attempt to communicate the uncommunicable, a decision to speak:
I find the chaos of being alive overwhelming.
I feel that I am a swirling, ever-changing configuration of atoms,
Barely in human form,
Barely keeping it together.
"Try to keep your human suit on" is good advice,
Because the thin veil of
That prevents our particles from rearranging into
Is quite delicate actually.
And I think all humans know this on an innate level.
This is the gift of consciousness, and subconsciousness.
Subconsciously, we know that
We came from nothing,
And we know that
One day we will return.
This void terrifies us,
And it should:
What holds us together?
What is the thing that keeps us from dissolving?
I think we all remember, somewhere in our DNA,
What it was like to be not-alive.
And so, the sheer overwhelmingness of
Can feel like a big responsibility.
- - - - -
My best friend knows this chaos intimately.
That's one of the reasons she's my best friend.
She's a productive, pro-active, compassionate creature who cares deeply about the world around her and is passionate about the environment and loves the people in her life, wholly and truly.
And yet, the past few months, she's fallen in and out of some deep depression.
It's been going on for years, actually, she says.
You think you're going forth, living your life, setting goals and falling in love and making plans and balancing work and love and play -
Until you wake up in the middle of the night and realize:
"I've been so afraid, all this time.
I've been managing, pretending to be ok, but actually
All my actions have been a coping technique for
Mitigating the fear and chaos."
And when you wake up in the middle of the night,
Thinking these kinds of thoughts,
It's hard to know
Whether to wake your lover,
Or pretend you didn't have them and pretend to try to go back to sleep,
Or just lay there,
Symbolically awake in the darkness,
And let the chaos wash over you.
It's *chaotic* to be alive.
We desperately invent social structures like the post office
And political structures like democracy
And personal structures like careers and exercise routines
In an attempt to bring order to Space and Time.
I'm not saying you shouldn't be afraid, or that
We should give up these structures and valiant efforts to orchestrate order.
I'm just saying -
It's a little bit false.
I like the post office, but underneath it all:
I live with this fear.
I'm trying to name that WE live with this fear.
- - - - -
But, actually, I think
Our reaction to the chaos of the universe is
Totally optional and irrelevant.
I think that
Chaos continues, whether humans think about it or not.
Particles will continue to rearrange themselves
Long after we cease to be here to think about it.
And so - what to do with all this?
Well, as I guess you can tell,
I've been thinking about it a lot.
And I'm not sure...but I think it's ok.
I think it's ok.
Look at this beautiful planet.
You have to look at it!
Ok, first - think about outer space.
Close your eyes if you think it will help.
Picture those images from the science channel and National Geographic,
all of this wonderful visualization that mankind is now so familiar with.
Drifting through Space,
Zooming further and further out to galaxies and infinite stars and particles
Floating through all kinds of things we have barely begun to understand.
Try to mentally grasp, for just a moment,
All that we believe the rest of the universe looks like.
Picture the rolling foothills of Vermont.
Can you hold in your mind, the swirling void of the Milky Way,
AND the breaking waves of the Arctic?
Try to visualize the abundance of stars, next to the bus system of New York City.
The existence of black holes and also chocolate chip cookies.
Amidst the way matter floats through space and planets drift around stars that come in and out of existence,
We experience soft summer rain, and
So many types of music, and
Creatures like goats and crawfish,
And the banality of lines at the grocery store, and ATMs,
And two human beings holding hands.
This planet is incredible.
Our lives are incredible.
are so lucky
To experience relief from the chaos,
Even if it's fleeting, I choose to be here.
Even if it's a big responsibility -
I choose to be alive,
And I love to get angry when someone spills coffee on my shirt,
And I love to complain about traffic,
And I love to worry about money,
And I love to kiss someone new.
For me, sleeping next to someone at night
Is the best way to gain comfort for awhile,
However temporary and fleeting.
Because at least we're in this together.
At least when we wake up terrified in the middle of the night,
Even if we can't wake the person next to us
To talk about the chaos,
Mostly because it's all too complicated to put words to,
And also, let's be honest,
It's a ridiculous reason to wake someone up.
But at least
Someone is there.
I look over at you
In the middle of the night,
And I feel some small comfort because
I know that even though you never talk about it,
On some level you're
Going through the same thing.
And I'm reminded that the universe put together your unique configuration of atoms
As well as mine.
And maybe it's ok that neither of us understands.
is completely absurd.
But at least we're not alone.
A live rock concert, and cathartic dancing.