We all wonder from time to time. Be it once in a day, or once in a lifetime, we all embark on a journey. It is a journey of discovery that all conscious beings at some point encounter, willingly or not. Some of us actively seek out our own individual journey; others hide and wait for it to find them. And there are those who know nothing of the journey until they stumble into it.
I stumbled into my journey a very, very long time ago. It ended only very recently, although I don’t think “end” is a good word for the way it all turned out. That being said, it’s the best word I have for now. I wish I had a word that incorporated the meanings and connotations of both “end” and “change.” Were that the case, I would opt for that word.
I apologize, for I rant a great deal, and will probably continue to do so. But ranting never really hurts when you have a point that is going to be made, regardless of the length of time it takes to make that point. All that matters is that point, the expression of some meaning. If ranting is conducive in any way, I shall seize the opportunity to rant. If it isn’t somehow helpful, then it’s just filler, and you still get the point eventually.
Regardless, I apologize for ranting. Now, on to the story of my journey: I am You. I don’t know where I came from or who gave me the name “You.” In fact, the only thing I knew for a very long time was that I was the protagonist of my own tale, and being the only thing in the universe, I was also the sole protagonist of universe’s story. I was the only source of meaning in all of existence.
For a time I accepted my role graciously, carrying out my existence so that the world might have some sort of meaning. My presence seemed to create an aura of fulfillment wherever I went. Where You walked, meaning sprang up. The world had no choice but to be meaningful where I travelled. That made my life a very beautiful part of reality: it was a rule that I was meaningful, and so the world too must have been meaningful. It could have been no other way. It should have been no other way.
But after a while, the responsibility began to overwhelm me, and that is where my journey began. Distressed, I went to my mentor, whom I had asked for advice from the time I was old enough to be aware of myself. Reason and I were not always friends. We fought sometimes. I would at times go months without talking to her. Her answers weren’t always what I wanted to hear, at least not immediately. However, in the end she always won back my good faith. In time, her answers would come to seem natural, and I would wonder how I had ever doubted her. We were currently on good terms, and I am glad for that. We could just as easily have been upset with one another, and then my journey may have never begun. I always hated thinking about ideas like that.
“You. What troubles you?” Reason asked as I entered her abode.
I should clarify something: I said earlier that I was the only thing in the universe. I still believed this to be true even with the companionship of Reason, as I never really viewed her as a thing. To this day, I don’t really have any way of knowing what she is, or in what way she exists. I just know that she in some way speaks to me, and I can see her, at times very clearly, and at others almost not at all.
“I can’t take the pressure of being the sole proprietor of the meaning of the universe anymore,” I answered. “It’s too much to be asked of one being.”
There was a glint in Reason’s eye, and I knew she understood my dilemma. However, it was unlike her to reveal a solution without asking for a great deal of work on my part. So she posed a question: “Asked by whom? Do recall who placed such a burden upon you?”
I paused. Reason gazed intently at me as I looked into her knowing eyes, eyes that betrayed no answers. I couldn’t remember who told me I was the only thing with meaning. In fact, it couldn’t have been anyone. I was the only thing, after all.
Reason knew what conclusion I had reached. She led me further along the path she was forging for me, asking, “If no one told you that you were the only thing in the universe of any importance, how do you know it is the case?”
I didn’t know. I supposed I had always just assumed it to be true. After all, I had never observed anything that would hint at the contrary. I was the only thing. Nothing else could help me carry the world’s meaning, as nothing else existed. And I myself certainly had meaning. I mattered a great deal. The greatest deal, in fact.
“You have never met Them,” Reason pointed out, seemingly beginning her inevitable riddle-speak. Unless her abstractions led me to an answer quickly, I feared she would lose me.
“Them?” I asked.
Without a spoken answer, Reason took my hand and led me out of her home. We walked for what seemed like an eternity before we reached the farthest point to which I had ever traveled: the end of the universe. Reason paused there, teetering on the edge of existence, as though waiting for me to make some unseen connection. I could feel her patient silence tug at my mind as she gazed out into nothing. I looked as well, but for all Reason’s waiting and my watching, I saw only darkness. Then she pulled me with her over the edge.
The darkness shifted as we tumbled away from all I had ever known. We landed softly on strange, soft grass. Up to that point in my life, I had never realized what existence could be. The universe I had known was so flat that the concepts of hills and flatness were never conceived-so bleak that color was unfathomable. But Reason had pulled me past all that and into a place that sang with color, and whose rolling, flowing terrain made me realize that flat had ever existed at all.
What I had known for all my life to be the universe was not the universe. It had only been a small part of a much greater, more magnificent existence. Reason smiled at me, as though she sensed that I was on the verge of learning some deep lesson. She sensed correctly.
“Why have you brought me here, Reason? What is this place?” I asked.
“This is where They live.” Reason still didn’t seem intent on telling me who They were just yet. But this place gave me a strange feeling. It was a good feeling. I felt a sense of awe, and of relief. My curiosity grew. I felt so close to understanding, but I knew I couldn’t without her help.
“Please, Reason. Why are we here? How is this supposed to make me feel better?”
Reason decided to humor me. “It’s time you learned that there is more to the world than you have known. Follow me. You’ll understand soon enough.”
I wasn’t sure how knowing the world was more complicated than I had suspected would take any weight off my shoulders, but I followed Reason anyway. She led me through a forest of brown and grey trees with green leaves and colorful fruits and flowers. I kept pestering her about where she was taking me and who They were, and if I should be afraid of Them, and if They were people or objects, and if They would be able to give me definitive answers since she obviously couldn’t. Not even my attempted insults could spur her into explanation. Her lips were sealed.
After some time we came to a clearing. Reason shot me a grave look. “This is where you will understand.”
I looked around. I didn’t see anything worth understanding. It was just a plain, flat clearing. It wasn’t even colorful like the rest of the forest. In fact, it reminded me of my home. Standing in that clearing, I again felt the intense responsibility of being the universe’s source of meaning. If Reason thought seeing the clearing would ease my stress, she was wrong.
But I had never known Reason to be wrong. Suddenly I heard a rustling in the weeds around the clearing. Out into the clearing shot a figure, about my size, followed by a large, furry, menacing creature with horns and long, sharp ivory tusks. It had two beady black eyes sunken into its head. It was chasing the first figure. Looking at the creature gave me an empty feeling, like the terrifying opposite of being crushed or suffocated. I made eye contact with it for a split second, and I felt a disturbing pang of doubt. I felt meaningless and the world felt empty. The creature’s gaze threatened to tear away my sense of self, and leave me a meaningless heap of matter.
It returned it’s gaze to the figure, and suddenly I felt fine.
“Reason,” I asked, “was I supposed to feel better by nearly having my soul eaten by some freakish beast, in a place so similar to my home that we may as well have never made this journey?”
“No,” Reason answered. “The beast is not where the lesson lies. Look to the first creature. What do you see?”
I watched the figure closely as it tripped and fell. The beast reared up, ready to impale the figure with its sharp tusks. I found nothing of the situation to be pertinent to the task at hand.
“I don’t see anything.” I was becoming annoyed.
“The smaller creature is about to be mauled by the beast,” Reason pointed out.
I still failed to see how that observation, however accurate, would make me feel better about being the bearer of all the world’s meaning.
“What does that matter?” I asked. “How does watching the interaction between these two serve to relieve me of my hardship?”
I kept watching, as the beast reared again, twisting its ugly head so as to fall into the figure with its unforgiving ivory spears. My eyes fell to its target, a smallish, huddled heap cowering on the ground. It met my glance, or should I say, he met my glance, as I realized this was a person, similar to myself. I was not the only one after all. I looked into his eyes and found fear, and helplessness, as though he was searching for something in my gaze that he could latch onto, just to buy himself a few more seconds of life. Reason said and did nothing. It was apparent that I would need to make the final leap of my journey on my own.
So I did. With an intense heat in my chest and a spark in my mind, I lunged forward as the beast was about to crash down on him, bringing myself between the frail creature and the remorseless monster. I felt searing pain in my back as the creature rammed through me, and looked with relief into the eyes of the person in front of me. He looked back in disbelief, mouth agape, eyes brimming with tears.
A silent and quivering “Thank you” formed on his lips.
He didn’t need to thank me, but he did anyway, and the fact that the world hadn’t forced his gratitude somehow made it more wonderful.
Reason was right. I did feel as though I was under less pressure. Then I lost consciousness.
I tumbled through a void, knowing not where I was or where I was going. All I was aware of was falling, and darkness. All was lost: the only meaningful thing, falling and tumbling into an abyss. I clawed at nothing, trying to slow my descent. I couldn’t let the universe fade into meaninglessness.
But no, something was off. This wasn’t a helpless fall. I had chosen it. I had not been forced. Why was I falling, then? There was something else, some other meaning, more than myself. Why had I let myself fall, when I could have never jumped? Something had been worth the fall.
I remembered him, and the fear in his eyes, and the relief when I had come between him and the monster. The darkness eased a bit. I got the feeling that the world wasn’t falling with me into nothing. Furthermore, I realized I had a choice here. I could be falling into nothing, but I noticed I might just as well be flying. There was no real reason to pick one over the other. The world didn’t dictate which was reality.
I remembered his “thank you,” and I chose to be flying.