The quick, ephemeral momentary emotions. They’re sweet or bitter, fiery or fluttery. Loud and demanding. Urgent. Consuming. They are what we all feel with ease. They are what we make important. But they are not what we need. We need the slow burns, and the long loves. We need the coolness of contemplation, and the tempered calculation of slow reaction. We need the disembodied experience of another perspective. The considered and informed action. The time-traveled retrospective from a thousand tomorrows. Those are so much harder to have. They require tremendous wisdom and self discipline… But in them we find strength and character.
We were traveling by car. It was to celebrate my birthday. We were traveling the coast to arrive at a ship, and we needed to be on time. It had become dark. You were upset because of the distance left… It seemed like we might arrive too late. I didn’t have all the details. I didn’t know what I needed to do. It was all to be a surprise.
We stopped at my parents house in the dark. I parked carefully - the car was not ours - but still ended up perilously close to another car. I was suddenly deeply sad. You were angry, things seemed to be going wrong and I didn’t know what to do to fix it all. Everybody else seemed happy. My mom and dad tucked us into spare beds. My niece and nephew were tucked in too… And you also seemed now content. But the sadness remained.
I walked through the house to an unfamiliar room filled with animals. Some were in cages, and some were not. There was a strange collection of different animals there. Small furry creatures, a colossal snake, a tiny dinosaur.
…and then the sadness escaped me as a sound. It was a small, continuous, high sound from the back of my throat. The sound that comes when your body can’t hold in the sadness any longer, and so pushes out what would have been a wail if you weren’t fighting the tears.
This was not a human sound. It belonged to life. All the animals responded in unison. Each animal jumped, bobbed or swayed, and added its own sound in turn. Every added voice perfectly blended with the rest. Some were deep, others matched the original pitch. Some were perfect harmonizations. They all became one sound. A deep, primordial sound. Sadness became a single complex and beautiful note - a note from the mysterious song of life.
“At the heart of science is an essential tension between two seemingly contradictory attitudes - an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may be, and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new.”—Carl Sagan (1987)