This year marks the 21st year that I have been floating about among all of the other humans and bacteria in the world. It is 2016, for future reference. Birthdays have generally been a thing that are well celebrated in my family, but not all birthdays are created equal. Being twenty-one: leaning against my mother as she whispers happy birthday in my ear and kisses me on the cheek; sitting next to my brother, who I always feel like I haven’t seen in years, and smiling; hugging my other brother after receiving one of the most thoughtful presents I have ever recieved; feeling the fingers of my two best friends run along my back in an attempt to comfort me; hands and wine glasses covered in paint: a fragmented snapshot of my birthday.
The day after my birthday I came across a token of passing wisdom needed for passing years. My brothers and I went to a park just a short walk from our dad’s home. We had no purpose, we just wanted to walk for a little bit before Joseph, my brother, drove back to Austin. We walked towards an open field and Joseph began to tell me about how the other day when he got into town he came to this same field and sat down to watch the sunrise, but now he got to watch the sunset.
With my burning barefeet from the grass burs and the brittle grass, I stayed where I stood unwilling to move more inward. Joseph, however, began to move away from me, deeper into the field. I did not watch him go, instead I looked up at the sky and, with mixed feelings, watched an airplane pass overhead. Joseph stopped eventually and sat down facing me. I turned towards him and copied his posture, ass touching grass with a straight back and hands in my lap. Our other brother, Jacob, came up to me and understood what we were doing without saying a word. Jacob stood in front of me for a moment looking towards Joseph, but then he began to move away from me–his body becoming smaller and smaller as he got closer and closer to Joseph. After reaching Joseph, Jacob began to move in a diagonal line to complete the triangle.
This became a game in altered perspective for me: watching my brother walk away from me, watching my brother’s form become smaller and smaller the farther away he became. I paid special attention to this diminishing-with-distance. Even if having seen this many times and understanding the process intellectually, I have never thought much about distance viscerally / metaphorically. This act of my brother walking away and decreasing in size become a visual representation for both my past and my future. Sitting on the grass, looking up at his approximant 6 foot form, Jacob towered over me. But when he was on the other side of the field he had lost the same significance, the same overwhelming size. I thought in the moment that this is an optical portrayal for my internal experiences and my memories–the things that mattered at one time but have moved away from me (or at least I have moved away from them). So many details have become lost now and they are so far away that I can only be so certain that things are as they appear (from this distance).
As everything begins to pass away and move away from me, as I begin to let things go and let them walk away from me, everything begins to become less significant and less overwhelming. There is the old saying, “time will heal all things,” but this does not help you really see how things change and alter with the passage of time. This saying lacks the “knowing,” it just contains the wisdom. Seeing, however, seeing and experiencing this spatial change in my exterior world is one of the closest moments I have also had with my interior world. On the day after my twenty-first birthday I was able to experience my past and my future reaching out before me at a great distance at the same time, and I understood in a way I had not before. I understood that perspective is one of the most powerful things in this world (and also that everything is very misleading). None of these are new thoughts, but just new experiences to help understand old thoughts.
I feel like this is an exercise everyone needs to do for themselves at least once a year, maybe on a birthday. Go out into a field with someone, or two someones, and sit down. Then, one of the someones must walk away. It must be a large distance and someone must walk until the person they know becomes just a form, just an idea. Watch each other and imagine what they are like when they are standing next to you. Imagine if they remained this faded size standing next to you. Pay attention, special attention, to all of the details. I promise you will experience the world in a new way if you just pay attention and take a moment to appreciate the movement of the world and of another human’s body from a distance. If we look beyond what we think we know and simply observe the changes that occur as the sun moves across the sky and new shadows are cast in old ways, we can learn to find a stillness in ourselves and in our world.