I have a sense that our lives are interconnected. Sometimes small bits of data, floating in the maelstrom of our shifting inner lives, come up to the surface and integrate with our outer selves. The carefully constructed facade of “us” can either crumble or be reinforced with better materials: truth, accurate information, access to our feelings and the strength to embrace epiphanies.
My first epiphany was at the age of three when I figured out what the black bits were on the gray-white snow of book paper. I taught myself how to read, slowly choking down whatever I could sound out in my head. The Long Beach Public Library gave me some other selections as I got older: “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,””The Magic School Bus,” and whatever picture books of outer space I could get my hands on. It was an edifying diet of ideas, of what science was, of early critical thinking.
By the time I was enrolled in private school at age nine, I was too smart to be convinced that the earth was only a few thousand years old, that men could walk on water, or that somehow we all are doomed sinners destined for hell. My teachers couldn’t win in the battle for my scientific soul and the sixth grade science teacher was impressed when I had to explain entropy to him, he not believing that thermodynamics could trump Genesis. I think that my youth pastor still lays awake at night worrying about who I’m corrupting now.
I am a staunch believer in the idea that the world is what you make of it. Through the power of our mindset, life can either be a delightful challenge with a payoff of extended experience or a nightmare of fear and misgivings, painful memories, darkness. There are no angels standing watch and no demons prodding you to misdeeds. Our achievements are our own…
Except when I begin to think of connections. I recently watched the film of “Cloud Atlas.” Unlike anyone else in that auditorium, I sat in my seat sobbing at the end of the picture. I am convinced that I saw a movie of singular distinction…it was an experience that truly changed my life. The complex tapestry woven around the various characters, the tight and tenuous knots of inter-dependency, the story arching over hundreds of years of history: it was as glorious to me as the night I first saw the whole band of the Milky Way spangled with a thousand thousand suns.
When it dawned on me what the movie was about, what it was trying to say, I struggled to catch my breath. Tears, burning in the corners of my eyes, begging to be let out. All of us are drops which make up a vast and mighty sea. All of us are pieces of DNA coded to perform important tasks, lest the body of humankind fail utterly.
Through many we are one, yet individual.
Tom Hanks sits on an alien shore and tells tales by firelight. The children of many colors sit enraptured to the pidgin english.
For them the different stars are friends. For them the alien flora and fauna are comfortably familiar. For them the connections between “us” is as plain as the three moons in their sky.
And I weep.