Existential Light Bulb at School Dismissal Yesterday

I was standing in the gorgeous sunny day, throwing a football with my little guy, when the moms started arriving for dismissal.

The Michigan sky was blue as a mountain lake, the sun bright and clear and its shine made it feel warmer than 62 degrees.

One mom – a friend, a happy person, a no-frills down-to-earther – wore socks with sandals, nondescript cotton pants and a shirt of indistinct color. Gray threaded through her brown hair. Her perpetual smile shone in the afternoon sun, as she waited eagerly for her child.

Voices from my childhood floated through my head, judgmental about her clothing, her appearance, surface judgments inconsequential and stupid at their core. I couldn’t help it. Old rivers run deep, and the voices of our childhoods echo in our minds long after we’ve left those haunts and habits.

I shook my head, encouraging the earlier self to fall away as if shedding a layer of skin. Who cares, I thought. The outfit does not make the person.

And then I unraveled into this existential observer, one who looked at the clothes and the sandaled-socks and thought, none of that even registers. That’s not who we are. Not even close.

My musings went even further into the abyss, the inner spiraling of meditation and higher awareness and living on a soul-drenched plain. I looked at her as if viewing a person for the very first time, like an alien visiting our planet, and thought, how can we even begin to approximate the depths of a person from what we see standing on the sidewalk?

Suddenly, her smile overtook the picture. THAT was what I saw, not even her physical form. The shining of her happiness, of her generosity, of her friendly demeanor. THAT was more this person than anything else. 

The other day, a crazy thought popped into my head along these same existential lines. The notion of our planet spinning freely in space, like a free-fall but not falling, just hovering there in the dark star-filled air, seemed, really, ludicrous.

On the plane home from New York, I turned to my eldest and said, “How do we even know that’s true?”

He shrugged.

“We don’t, I guess,” he said, and then launched into some explanation of space and gravity and planet theory and all that science has to offer to explain the inexplicable. 

“But it could be something altogether different,” he said, or words that meant that, at least. My son lives on a higher plane at a younger age. He doesn’t see the trappings of my youth. (Thank God.) He’s starting higher, all my kids are, and they – and we – will be so much better for it.


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