The voices in the truck were pretty neat, but within a couple of days my ego returned to its wailing about my pathetic existence and the uncertainty that lay ahead.
“What am I going to do?” was indeed the last thing I thought before I walked across my bedroom and the universe hit me in the chest.
It was a moment in an otherwise very ordinary day. The sun was shining, the kids were at school, but as I was headed to the bathroom to dry my hair, my entire bedroom suddenly and completely disappeared. It was replaced by a view of earth from distant space, our little blue and green ball under swirls of cloudy white, surrounded by nothing but black.
That moment was like nothing I’d ever experienced before (or even knew to contemplate as possible) and it felt like the entire universe was inside my chest. I saw a thousand images in an instant. I was part of everything I saw in front of me, yet I was also somehow outside of it all, in an immense stillness so thick and deep it seemed to have a breath of its own.
I was overwhelmed with a feeling I can only call peace, although I’d never felt it before or in that magnitude since, and all I could do was stand there, frozen, in awe of it all.
When my bedroom returned and I could breathe again, I realized that there weren’t words or thoughts in my head during the whole…thing, but I knew something in my chest that my mind translated into words on its own: There is nothing to fear. Anything is possible. This is all absurd.
I didn’t know what it all meant, but it felt like I’d been handed a secret from God, god, or the universe. This is all absurd.
And, I had no idea how to explain or understand what happened. Have I gone mad? Do things like this happen to other people? Am I the last to know? This, apparently, was my shakabuku:
Debi (Minnie Driver): You know what you need?
Marty (John Cusack): What?
Marty: You wanna tell me what that means?
Debi: It’s a swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever.
Marty: Oh, that’d be good. I think.
~ from the film, Grosse Point Blank, 1997
I don’t know if shakabuku is a real word, but I like the idea of it,and it certainly fit the situation.
Shakabuku! It sounds like lightning and it was, in a way.
You, dear elephant readers, will recognize this as an awakening or semi-awakening, as the case may be, since I am definitely not yet free of my mind (are there degrees of this stuff?). To awake is to wake up from the confines of the physical world to the magic that is this existence. To awake is to begin to understand who and what we are as humans and why we’re here. To awake is to be an observer of your story in this world, rather than being an unconscious character oblivious to the plot, or to the fact that there is a plot in the first place.
Much later I discovered–on page seven of A Course on Miracles, to be exact—is that the Christian vernacular also has a word for this: revelation.
“Revelation induces complete but temporary suspension of doubt and fear. It reflects the original form of communication between God and His creations…and unites you directly with God.”
Yep. That’s what it felt like. Although the book also says:
“Revelation is intensely personal and cannot be meaningfully translated. That is why any attempt to describe it in words is impossible.”
I do have a point in sharing this with you, which we’ll get to soon.
A week later, as I wandered the Philadelphia airport before boarding a flight to visit a niece studying in Barcelona, I struggled to find something to read in the bookstore. Normally I was a sucker for memoirs or health magazines, but they held nothing for me that day. Running out of time and frustrated that I’d be stuck in the air for six hours with nothing to read, I nearly knocked over a cardboard display and then realized that it seemed to be glowing at me; I read the cover and nearly laughed out loud, reaching for a copy of Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. Okay, okay, I thought. I’m getting it.
The plane was delayed to Barcelona, so I sat in my window seat on the tarmac mulling interpretations of This is All Absurd.
It seemed absurd, for instance, that this giant steel bird was somehow going to fly over an enormous ocean and deposit 300 of us and our luggage in another country all together, where people spoke a different language and grew up thinking different things, but had families and jobs they loved and hated.
It seemed absurd that someone had painted NO PARKNIG in bright yellow letters nearly 20 feet tall on the tarmac underneath the jet way outside my window, and more absurd that someone had finished the project without noticing such a ridiculous mistake. NO PARKNIG.
How could that happen? Did he get fired? Did his supervisor get fired? Why did no one out there look embarrassed? It was completely absurd.
I would’ve asked my seatmate what he thought, but right about then—shakabuku. On the back of the seat in front of me appeared a little cartoon drawing of the earth, this time with a handful of friendly airplanes flying around it, and in that instant, I got it.
While our plane was boarding, hundreds, if not thousands of other planes were boarding in cities all around the world, and hundreds, if not thousands more planes were already circling the globe, each full of 300 people or so making travel plans or working out business problems, wondering why they got married or why they got divorced, reading books, trying to sleep, or looking for something to eat.
All of this, while we are apparently floating on a rock through immense and immeasurable space, the only life forms nearby that are conscious in a way we can understand.
The idea that any of this exists in the way we’ve always assumed it to exist is completely absurd.
It’s absurd that we spend 10 hours a day in cubicles under fluorescent lights. It’s absurd that we fight each other over religion, over water, over land, over right and wrong. It’s absurd that we spend most of our lives worrying about “succeeding” in this capitalist construction we’ve created, a ridiculous box that portends to offer the keys to freedom.
Do you see it?
Seven billion people are apparently floating on this rock through empty, quiet, space, surrounded by nothing, nothing, nothing but blackness—and the miracle of that is nearly lost on us all.
Instead of appreciating the mystery, we’re busy planning parties and watching football or worrying about test scores and saving for retirement. It’s absurd.
It’s actually insane.
Coming next: Time stops in Begur.
Editor: Seychelles Pitton