Sometimes I feel like we start life sitting in a dark room that is full of unlit light bulbs, except for one. This lone bulb gives off just enough light to see your immediate surroundings. With this light we see a small, fairly simple world. Not too much is complex. Not too much is complicated. Not too much is painful on the grand scale of things. Of course, since we can’t see the “grand scale” anyway, it is all we know. In this small world the very simple things can bring very great joy. Life’s traumatic moments consist of things like scraping your knee on the concrete while playing soccer and perhaps even something as tragic as someone taking away your Tonka truck. Life’s joyous moments consist of things such as daddy coming home from work and eating fruit snacks.
As life goes on, other previously unlit lamps begin lighting up different parts of the room. Most often these lights come on one at a time. Other times two or three pop on all at once. Slowly but surely, more and more of the room is illuminated and the room gets bigger and bigger.
Of course, the room was always this big, but you never really new that. Thankfully as the room gets bigger, you begin to see, taste and experience great joy. However, at the same time this bigger room brings bigger complication, bigger heartache and bigger pain. The joyous moments begin taking the shape of your first hit in little league, family vacations and your first best friend. The painful moments become getting picked last for kickball, getting your first pair of glasses (thus listening to the taunts about the numerical value of your eyes) and having your mom dress you in plaid pants and a turtle neck sweater for your first day of school.
As the lights continue to illuminate the room, both the moments of joy and the moments of pain become more and more powerful. Unfortunately, it’s a simple fact of life. There is no getting away from it. In the ideal world our maturity grows as all lights go on and we wade into the rest of the room slowly. This “wading in” would give us time to take in the good and make it a little more possible to maturely process the bad. Of course, the world is rarely ideal and even when it is, the pain can still run deep.
Far too often however, the room doubles or triples in size before us when we are really only able to handle another few feet of light. We call these moments: times of tragedy.
For some people, the light bulb illuminates the reality of a lost parent at a very early age. Tragedy may shine as being sexually abused by a relative. Parents get divorced. Friends move away. Lies are told. Life gets hard and complicated way too fast. The pain gets way too great to bear. The room gets bigger than we can handle and all we want to do is snuff out the lights and go back to the nice, cozy, little one light room; crawl up in the fetal position and fall asleep for a very long time.
Yes, there is joy. It is these joyous moments that keep us going, that give us reason for hope. There are parents who do stay together. Families love each other. Friends stay. Teachers inspire. Dreams are realized.
In all of this, along with the great joys, the room continues to get bigger and innocence is lost. What was once a life full of naptimes, diapers, bedtime stories, Matchbox cars and little green army men; becomes a life full of something completely, completely different.
Sooner or later we realize that the room isn’t really a room at all. Instead of feeling like a kid rummaging for a lost toy through the junk under his bed, we are a little more like Captain Pichard exploring the final frontier, a never ending expanse so vast that despite a lifetime of discovery and brightened “light bulbs” we will not see it nearly or perfectly.
Welcome to reality, we say. Do your best. Bury the pain. Remember the happy times. Somehow, considering that this approach doesn’t really work, I get the feeling that we were meant for so much more. Weren’t we? If there really is a God, is this life some sadistic joke? If there isn’t, is all of this just some out of control cosmic madness?
Somehow I get the feeling we were meant for so much more.