Sometimes, when you’re feeling down, the most obvious thing to do escapes you: Look up.
There is so much sky there. And the Master Painter has produced so many masterpieces in every direction — sometimes I will take four pictures in six seconds and every one looks different, even though they were taken in the same moment.
We’re used to paintings on canvas, so we’re accustomed to viewing clouds in frames a foot or two wide — it’s easy to forget that real clouds are miles long and the sky goes on forever, as far as any human can determine. When they say “the sky’s the limit,” what they mean to say is: There is no limit.
In a world where there are infinite ways to box yourself into a corner and feel trapped by circumstances or lost or alone, the limitless sky reminds us there is no box, there are limitless possibilities, and there is no limit. And in a world of 7 billion people, and billions and billions of other creatures (hear that bird singing over there?), you are never quite alone.
The sky can be a little intimidating — like when it brings storms instead of sun and gentle clouds — and when you consider how tiny you are in the midst of all that infinity — but it also shows us how vast this world and this universe are in comparison to whatever you think you’re facing alone.
So: Keep looking down at what ails you in your little corner of the universe — or look up and see the infinite ways to break out and live. Take a deep breath and choose. My advice: Look up. The possibilities are out there.
+ + + + +
I was locked in place. Nothing was coming out of the universe and into my heart to flow through my fingers and share. Oh, that’s not true; I was writing but, as I said to a couple of friends, “I’m going through one of those phases where everything I write is crap.”
My personal mission statement for writing is three words: Encourage, enlighten, entertain. How in the bejeebers do you do that from the depths of discouragement?
For some reason I thought of the many mornings I’ve walked outside and had my breath taken away by the big Wisconsin sky. If I have my phone in my pocket, I grab it, turn on the camera app, and capture the images to share later.
That’s the answer, I thought: When you’re down, look up. When you’re knocked down, look up. It’s a big sky, and your troubles are so little by comparison. You feel like they’re bigger than you, but the universe is bigger than all of it. Somewhere in that big universe is the solution, and it’s closer than you imagine.
+ + + + +
The audacity of hope — that phrase emerged from my subconscious as I sat and pondered what to write next after “closer than you imagine.” Yes, it’s the name of a political book written by a politician who was masquerading as something other than a politician — it’s an effective disguise sometimes. But it’s also a beautiful phrase.
To hope in the face of despair is an audacious act. How can you have hope when so much in life argues against hope? To start with, life’s a bitch and then you die, literally. Yep, all of the struggle, the hard work, the staying alive and afloat in a sea that just seems to be trying to drown you — it all ends the same way. Death is inevitable, and sometimes it’s hard to remember how much life there is to live.
Add to the beauty or add to the despair: Each of us has two choices — more than two, actually, infinite choices — but each of us adds something every day. Life has a basic arithmetic: We can add or we can subtract; we can multiply or we can divide. Or rather: It seems to have a basic arithmetic with those four choices, but in reality, we’re always adding. If the aim is to subtract (that is, to destroy), we add our selves to that movement. If the aim is to add (that is, to build), or to multiply, we also add our selves. Each life adds to the world — when a life ends, it is a loss.
But we each have only one dying day — and we have thousands upon thousands of days to live. Concentrate on living: What do you have to add this moment, this day, with this life?
+ + + + +
So far I have consciously tried to state my case here without mentioning God. I think every reasonable soul has to wonder sometimes if this universe was created by a higher consciousness, a greater being, and we spend a lot of time forming an image and adopting beliefs around the nature of that higher consciousness, that greater being. It’s hard to imagine infinity — it’s hard to wrap our minds around the possibilities of that greater being — and when I reach the limits of my imagination, I encounter my doubts. That’s when we adopt the concept of faith, denial, or somewhere in between. It’s in my nature to believe in that higher consciousness, because it makes sense that in an infinite universe there has to be someone greater than us. It makes more common sense that a Creator made the universe than that it just appeared out of nowhere — although, then, who created the Creator? When you go back to the beginning of infinite time, what happened before it began? Such puzzles we weave when we try to conceive or understand the nature of this vast universe!
We anchor ourselves to an answer knowing we very likely will never have all the answers. We take comfort in the thought that we will understand when we reach the next level of existence, just as we gain understanding each day as we move through this level of existence. Those who insist, “This is all there is, this is it, this is your life, an emerging from nowhere into consciousness and death is the end,” well, that’s how they came to terms with the mystery. I can’t imagine that this consciousness simply ends — I have to believe I experienced something before my birth and will experience something next — I even sense some memories of “before” hanging out on the edge of my consciousness — and that’s how I’ve come to terms with the mystery.
+ + +
Wow. I rest my case. An hour has passed since I sat down and wrote, “Sometimes when you’re feeling down, the obvious thing to do escapes you: Look up.” And so I did. See where looking up takes your soul? I rest my case: Look up. There’s so much life, there are so many possibilities, out there.