It is sobering. That moment when you realize the world existed long before you arrived and will continue long after you have expelled your last breath of air. The instant when you comprehend in a staggering flash of mind-blowing revelation that you are caught in the river of time, a river that is flowing, flowing, flowing, ever so swiftly. A river that will keep flowing long after it has thrown you from its mighty current and cast you into eternity. When you see yourself clearly for the first time, realizing you are but a grain of sand in an endless desert. A drop of water in an ocean. One among millions; billions. Realizing each individual is destined to perish and be forgotten, just as you will perish and be forgotten. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. You finally realize that you come from nothing and will return to that from which you came. The pages of the book will continue to turn long after you are no longer there to read the wonders contained within. You are not even a chapter in that book.
In many ways, it is amazing when you think of it. How did your cells come to form…you? Someone who is different from every other person who has ever been, who now is, and who will someday come to be. Yet, for all of that, the miracle of it, of your soul, your consciousness, your heart, your brain, you are an insignificant little blob of cells that will cease to be in less than 100 years. A molecule of air in the vast, boundless sky. Blowing through. Soon to be gone. The world will go on. Without you.
When one becomes aware of the fact that they are an entity separate from their parents and that, as such, they bear significant responsibility for who they become, for their contribution to society, and the impact they have on others, we begin to evaluate our role on this planet. Most of us want to be remembered. Most of us will not do anything worth remembering. And even those who do are reduced to a few lines in a history book. A few paragraphs on Wikipedia. Maybe, if we do great and astounding things, a biography. A TV movie. But even those more lasting memorials are largely unviewed and unread as time continues onward. If we are extremely great, contributing in extraordinary and significant ways, we become a question or two on a test. Nothing more. We, our essence, is not memorialized. Only our worthy or notorious deeds. Only the very best of us will leave something of value behind. And even then, the world moves on. Looking for the next new thing. The next hero to worship. Idol to bow to. Seeking someone or something to make them feel special. While the river of time sweeps us all along in her unrelenting current.
We become an old photograph at a flea market, unnamed, unknown, unvalued. Wanted only because the picture containing our image is an antique. Life continues long after we are gone.
This does not mean we should not try to live life to the fullest. It does not mean we shouldn’t try to leave a great legacy behind. Nor does it mean we shouldn’t dream. I, yes, even I had some dreams. Goals. Desires. I believed. That I would achieve, overcome, succeed. I would leave something lasting behind. Something important. Significant. Something that touched souls, opened hearts, inspired, drove and relieved. I wanted to leave my mark on the world. One that reached far and cut deep. That brought light to the darkness of hurting souls.
But I have not left my mark on life. Instead, it has placed its mark on me. A wound deep and devastating. Crippling and painful. Leaving me with little to give and few, if any, answers. Giving me nothing of importance to say or do. And the world goes on without me,even now. Even though I am not yet gone.
Life does not make it easy for most of us. And for some of us, the blows are seemingly endless and cruel. Some, like me, have been knocked to our knees early on and have never been able to get back up. Dreams die in the dust as we struggle to gain our feet. Hopes perish in the night. We die before our body stops breathing.
The world will go on without me. It surges forward, washing me aside. I have tried to swim both against and with the current. I have tried to keep my head above water. To evaluate. To give. To comprehend. To leave behind an anchor for the millions of others who will come after me. But in the end, all I have to offer is my pain. The only thing I have to show for my struggles and useless attempts to make a difference are tears and agony. I near the end. My stop is just a little way ahead of me now. My time is nearly finished. I entered the world with a cry. I will leave in silence. I am shattered. Useless. With nothing to give.
The world will go on without me. All I can hope for now is that there can be found somewhere in the darkness in which I live, a sliver of meaning in the destruction of my soul. Perhaps someone will hear my cry and carry it forward. I will cease to exist here on this planet of suffering and anguish. This place of struggles and pain. I will be launched into eternity and leave this all behind. But if someone hears my voice and holds a little piece of me in their heart, listens, comprehends and takes a stand for those of us who have been destroyed by those who were supposed to love, nurture and protect us, maybe I will be able to let go without staggering regret. Maybe I will be able to find peace at last when my body is pulled from the river for the last time. As it flows on without me. As if I had never been.