You’ve come so far. Built yourself up, atop of your ideals of how things should be and ideas of how the world works. Then something happens. Everything shudders, shakes, and when you look down, you realize. It’s as if you’ve awoken from a dream. Your eyes widen. You’re not on a solid foundation. This isn’t bedrock. It never was. You’re skating on thin ice. You’re treading water. Trying to stay afloat and keep your head from going under.
What you thought you knew is on a collision course with another world. A completely different world. At first, you only see the surface. It’s all so foreign and intriguing. It excites you, exhilarates you, as some kind of exotic theme park might. And for a time you are content with things being like this, although you sense something deeper lurking below. And it’s coming closer. When you eventually penetrate the surface, the sensation is entirely overwhelming. From your fingertips to your chest, from the crown of your head to the bottom of your feet, you’re left in a shaking anxiety. Everything falls apart. Everything you were, everything that was, everything you thought you were, everything you thought that was – everything you thought. You don’t know anymore. What did you just crash into? Where even were you before? What were you? You can finally grasp the ends of whatever lurks in the depths. Somewhere in the abyss dwells the answer. You feel you can never make it there. It’s as though, at least for the time being, it repels you. You can’t understand why. It’s a different world with a different structure. It’s all too complex to wrap your head around. You notice you’re still holding on to the driftwood of old ideas, as you attempt to tread water. You can’t help it. You’re not very good at this whole treading water thing. You fear these pieces of driftwood are actually holding you back from doing this effectively. They have great big holes in them. But you don’t know how to let go.
Those ends you could grasp – those tendrils of truth – they’ve finally led you to what you think is the core of this world. The secret lies within. The answer you seek. Could you really be almost there? You peel back layer after layer trying to get to it. With each one you pull on, your aching body increases in desperation, and the prospect of this endeavour bearing fruit seems more and more futile. You grow weary. There’s no end to the layers. It’s a puzzle on a scale you’ve never even witnessed, let alone imagined before.
Whether you were to wake up and realize it or not, life always was and always will be this way. Ideas are nothing solid, after all. You can only pretend to stand on them. The whole universe is maddeningly complex, and it’s under no obligation to make any sense to us. It’s best to learn to tread water, lest you drown trying to stand, or drown holding onto something that will pull you under.
The water begins moving. Quicker and quicker, it pulls you along with it. You’re sent down the rapids in a big yellow raft. As much as you think to yourself, “I don’t want to go down here,” it doesn’t matter: That’s where you’re headed. You can try to paddle back or close your eyes and make believe, but you’re powerless within the forces of nature. Maybe the whole situation scares you so much that you panic and flip your raft, and get helplessly sucked down into the bottomless depths. Yet another sure way to drown. Alternatively, you can brace yourself, and learn to navigate the rapids, steering yourself toward better waters. Maybe it turns out to be fun. Or at least enjoyable. You can’t stop life. But you can make it better.
This all comes with the realization that there are a seemingly infinite number of ways one can live out their life. And they can be so bafflingly vast in their differences. All of them are valid. Life can truly be whatever we want it to be. Why do we settle for this?