Monday, February 18, 2013

Existential Crises

“I had an existential crises today,” is probably not a phrase that you hear often. Really, most of us describe these moments as nervous breakdowns or episodes. However, I believe there is a huge separation between the “what am I doing with myself?” breakdown (that I probably have weekly, at this point) and a true feeling of be obsolete and unmonumental.

The last time I had an existential crisis was the summer of 2009. I was working at a summer camp, and some coworkers and I had a couple hours off in the evening. Being in the middle of nowhere, New Hampshire, we decided to just go for a walk through the woods.

At that same summer camp, but during the day.

We found ourselves in the middle of the camp’s soccer field, lying on our back, staring up at the stars - and boy were there stars. There were millions of them. Tiny little windows into heaven. Suddenly every song lyric and quote I’d ever heard about the little fireballs came rushing back into my brain.

On his Reddit Ask Me Anything, Chris Hadfield described the sky as he sees it from the International Space Station (and does he make beautiful poetry, that man):

“It looks like a carpet of countless tiny perfect unblinking lights in endless velvet, with the Milky Way as a glowing area of paler texture.”

Had that quote been spoken back in 2009 while I lay on this field, I’m sure it would have entered into my head as well.

In that moment, however, it didn’t matter that the poets were all correct about the beauty of them all. It didn’t matter that for the first time I understood where those constellations came from. Because immediately following that moment of clarity, I entered into one of despair.

Where was I? What were these glowing dots just floating above my head? I couldn’t grasp the concept of the Universe, how something so large could appear so small. I felt a strike a terror through my entire body, starting in my toes and branching throughout my circulatory system like a lightning bolt.

What if they fell on me? I knew, intellectually, that was impossible, but the feeling was still there. But then my intelligence got the best of me. Those stars couldn’t fall on me - they were huge, if I were near enough, I’d fall into them. They’d swallow my entire planet, and nothing would care.

How inconsequential I must be.

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