Deserts of Vast Eternity

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And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; . . .
Andrew Marvell

“Me, me, me me,” squeals the toddler, waving his arms.

“Watch me!” demands the nine-year-old wobbling off on his bike.

“Who me?” snarls the adolescent, feigning outrage.

“Will you marry me?” asks the suitor, dropping to one knee, reaching in his pocket for the diamond.

“I need some time and space for me,” says the wife frowning, her back turned, her arms folded across her chest.

‘Why me?” wonders the patient in the hospital gown as his oncologist points to the mass on the x-ray.

“I gotta be me,” croons fedora-sporting Sinatra, a fading memory, a voice very few living have heard live.

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Some argue rather narrowly that world only exists in perception, i.e., that if there were no you, there wouldn’t be a world. Well, yes and no. If I had been killed in that horrific wreck on Hilton Head in 1976, the Braves still would have lost the ’91 Series – though for my sons non-Harrison and non-Ned, there would be no world.

Nevertheless, given that wherever we are is the center of the circle of perception – despite the fact that we’re mere dots on a map of blurred dots – each dot forms the center of our universes, 7 billion centers of 7 billion universes projecting outward from Europe, Asia, the Pacific, South America, the circles intersecting, forming collectively what is, or, rather, what seems to be.

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As our world becomes more secular, the surety of eternal bliss dwindles among the populace. As in the pagan world of Beowulf, for many the only path to immortality is through fame, but which one of us would trade places with Frank Sinatra or Steve Jobs?

No, as one of Flannery O’Connor’s characters put it, “You can’t be any poorer than dead.”

Given that oblivion looms for so many of us, no wonder we seek attention, desire to be noticed. So we have our photograph taken next to the Mona Lisa. We publish blogs, post photographs of our evening meals on Facebook, purchase red Corvettes to counterbalance the drop in testosterone. We struggle to leave a mark, whether it be a novel of lasting value, a beautiful building, a cure, an estate.

All the while the invaluable moments dissipate unseen like heat waves from the floors of deserts.

Mike Theiss: Tumbleweed and Patterned, Cracked Desert Floor, and Nearby Mountains

Mike Theiss: Tumbleweed and Patterned, Cracked Desert Floor, and Nearby Mountains

The global village underscores our ultimate insignificance. Back in the mists of time, among the few of our tribal community, among the savannas or in the forests, we didn’t seek notoriety but subsumed ourselves in rituals. However, now, like the toddler, we seek attention to prove that we exist. Once we’ve been gone a hundred years most of us won’t leave a trace – except for whatever genetic tracings can be found in our descendants or any bones that might show up in an archeological dig or construction project.

The paradox is that despite endless silence that awaits us, what we really need here in time is silence. Time to think. Time to feel.

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