It’s the early hours of morning and I’m watching small wisps of clouds race by in the sky, somewhere in some hemisphere. A Google search reveals these are scattered cumulus clouds, and I’m oddly captivated by their velocity. I spend my life in the ocean and yet I’m stunned that corridors of current can exist so invisibly thousands of meters above when the terrestrial morning is so calm.
Romantics cling to the idea that they and their star-crossed lover are gazing, probably romantically, out onto the same sky. But that’s bullshit. My sky on the other side of the world doesn’t have these urgent, racing clouds. They’re large, hanging immobile and impossibly far away, the very air of daily exhalations clinging like droplets before us, making the whole place seem like a tropical snow globe, encased, imaginary.
One evening a million miles away I was talking to a South African about happiness, home, here. She said that our attachment to people and things far away is actually quite illusionary; our minds can’t comprehend their existence because we can’t physically be there, so in all things basic, they don’t actually matter, even if we want them to. They’re not actually real. When we aren’t somewhere, the idea we generate of it is entirely fabricated by our minds, often giving us the perspective we want to have rather than the reality of it. That’s why the plague of homesickness is such an inaccurate concept. We’re not so much longing for anything behind us as we are adjusting to the difficulties of our new reality, absent of our old familiarities, which, by this logic, no longer even exist.
All reality, she said, is exactly as we envision it. It’s intangible, shaped by our unconsciousness. Our ego. Places and people don’t make us unhappy; barring extreme exceptions, we formulate the reality in which we’re unhappy. That’s why it’s so hard to have any accurate perspective of a situation: As long as you are immersed in it, you are actively creating it. You can’t keep looking for contentment around you in the same place you lost it.
By saying all of this she made it so, it was less like logic and more like magic. We became silent and the topic died. I was afraid of how the conversation might go otherwise. It might go and go and go. Lately we’ve all been spending too much time discussing if we’re okay or not. We moved away to experience the world and are still only talking about living.
The thing is we never know why we’re in a certain place. We get up, we move, we keep thinking that there’s some other way than this. We dream so long and so hard of a place that we hope it right out of existence. But places can’t change you. Moving, traveling, that doesn’t change you. That which we’ve left behind is the very electricity of what we have now. What changes us is the pain of creation. The process of it all, the birth.
And after a while it’s not the pain that’s so terrifying, but our ability to endure it.
We defend this condition of renewal as morally and intellectually superior. The movement, the traveling, the casual romances and the unsteady jobs — that this all has to do with courage and independence. That our lives are open and ready and free. Maybe they are. Maybe.
Our salvation is in our perspective. When you close your eyes to wherever it is that you are, whoever it is that you are with, whatever it is that you are doing and poof, it’s all gone, there you still are: the identical awareness, your wiring and your nerves and your fears. It’s from here that you create, and the clouds will never catch up to that.
I shared this draft with the South African friend, and her reaction was humbling. We’d both been through a wild few months and she kept quiet for a moment before asking me to repeat a line, twice.
“We moved away to experience the world and are still only talking about living.”
She said I was right that we rely on the validation of courage, of adventure, of independence to justify our journeys, our fuck-ups and our failures, but that doesn’t make it less lonely.
We watched the sunset together and appreciated where we were. It’s astonishing what you can build in a world where everything is meant to crumble, just by understanding the power of perspective. People tend to live their lives in such a way that they look forward to a single destiny, a single perspective, yet somehow consider themselves distinguished from the ordinary. In their quest for a life without loss, hardship, doubt, loneliness, that is what they achieve: a life absent of those human qualities that render anything remotely meaningful.
You create the conditions that will define your life experience. You paint the perspective yourself.
As the sun dipped down and the seascape softened, storm systems marched steadily in, imperative and with authority, flooding the permanent caverns of fluffy white security that have just entered our periphery. Our expected perspective. We grabbed our bikes and hurried home, barely beating the monsoon rains, not even realizing that even in those moments, those protected clips of time, everything was changing on its own anyway, and it would continue doing so, faster than we could ever imagine.