The center of the universe.
June 8, 2012 § 11 Comments
Our earth is not the center of the universe, but only one of several planets circling the sun—and not even the largest.
I’d like to state something that, on an emotional level, is just as heretical.
The big “I” each of us has, is not the center of the universe either. That “I” is one speck in an infinite cloud. Yet an “I” centered universe is hard to avoid when everything we know of existence comes through the tiny portal of self. That conscious speck called self values everything else based on whether it furthers or hinders a small personal agenda.
But as they gain command of hands, legs, language, they begin to be impressed with themselves.
The thrill of mastery is conspicuous in little kids. They run because they can. They jump. They yell. They do everything with enthusiasm. The kid-self is gigantic and joyous.
Then the self begins to compare, and check out its own image in the mirror of other people’s opinion. Suddenly the self becomes consumingly aware of skinny arms, a paperweight brain that stinks at long division, the embarrassment of wearing the wrong pair of shoes.
Any one of these things can eclipse the entire universe.
Although the feelings are negative, the young adult self is bigger than ever. The self has become a burden and an embarrassment, and coping with its inadequacies is a full-time job.
Then the self matures, and gains confidence. In adulthood it expresses itself by decorating walls with framed pieces of pager, gathering wealth, reproducing.
But with age, muscle mass, ambition, prospects–all begin to shrink. It is a time marked by less—and that less includes a less domineering self.
Sometimes my self is so quiet I can watch the leaf shadows on the window screen for long minutes without interruption from the internal voice that yells, “Look at me! Look at me!”
The yelling hasn’t stopped but it has either grown quieter or I have so completely lost interest that I am able to ignore it freeing my awareness to take in everthing else.
The self that so occupied me at fifteen competing to be the coolest, the self that struggled to look daring living aboard a boat while raising a child with my fisherman husband, the self that demanded that someone publish her books does not rule the way she once did.
Without her I am less likely to judge you harshly or see you as the competition.
The things I hope for now usually belong to us, not me. The urge to show off is not gone, but it comes up infrequently and is mildly embarrassing when it does.
More and more often, I see myself for the insignificant fleck of dust I am—or perhaps a better analogy is that I see myself as part of the moving stream. I’m insignificant, yes, but not separate like a fleck of dust.
Am I only imagining it, or are you who are of similar age experiencing a lightening of the burden of self as well? I hope so. Along with arthritis, the inability to remember where we put our keys, and wrinkly hides, this is one of the gifts that comes with age–one of the few that is worth opening.
You and I, along with spiders and oak trees and rain falling on a hot tar road are participants in the great enterprise of being.
Together we are a collective and amazing universe, centerless and expanding.