A Multitude of Drops

As I write this, I’m sitting in my house watching the rain fall outside. The setting sun is peeking out from behind the clouds, dramatically illuminating thousands of water droplets, each a perfect diamond as it falls to the earth. The effect fades as the sun recedes.

Soon I’ll be watching the same sun, but it won’t be setting. At all.

It’s an odd thing, living in time and space. One minute, you’re here, the next minute, you’re there.

One week, I’m unpacking my first house in Omaha.

The house I moved into last weekend.

The next week I’m shooting footage for a documentary in Bethel, Alaska.

Part of the crew preparing for the shoot in Bethel.
Part of the crew preparing for the shoot in Bethel.

Though many assert that we are each a pillar of individuality, born with unchanging, innate traits, it seems that the contrary is true. Our identities, to a great extent, reflect the time and space we inhabit.

One minute, I’m this person, the next minute, as Pink Floyd would put it, I’m “shorter of breath and one day closer to death.”

We are reminded of the passing of time and its effect on our identity in nearly every moment. We can track this simply by looking at ourselves at different ages. When I was 6, I wanted to grow up to be a paleontologist. Now, I don’t want to grow up, but I do want to be a journalist.

What’s less consistent is the passing of space.

We tend to spend the majority of our time in the same spaces, fabricating and contextualizing our identities according to these familiar places. I know I, for one, rarely get to watch myself change while passing from one space to another. I get caught in the monotony of daily routine, doing the same things in the same places.

Once in a while, though, things change.

These events (For me they were things like the first day of kindergarten, moving to Springfield, the first day of high school, moving to Omaha, etc…) are like giant billboards that read, “Hey you. Yes, you. Life is about to change, so buckle up.”

This trip to Alaska is staring me in the face, so I’m buckling up. I’m stepping out of my bubble on a quest for authentic experience and exposure.

My hope is that going to Bethel, a place radically different from that of my every-day-life, will instigate change in me for the better.  A part of the world that has not yet penetrated my consciousness might do just that. And hopefully, when that happens, I can expand my conception of the world. I’ll find out just a little bit more about how I and others fit into what people call “the big picture.” I’m not sure what “the big picture” is, but every time I experience something new, the picture gets a little more clear.

David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, has one of my favorite endings of any story. “Your life will have amounted to no more than a single drop in a limitless Ocean,” claims the protagonist’s father-in-law. To which the protagonist responds, “Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”

How big is the ocean? Which drop am I? Will I fall in front of the setting sun, or the one that never sets?

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