By Justin Cude
Here we are, such as we are; and whether or not we are pleased with this moment, we have no other choice than in accepting it.
“All time is all time. It does not lend itself to warning or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.”
I’m currently on a train, traveling through mainland china, enroute to a new city, a new experience. At this very moment, I am leaning against a cushioned human shelf up against the window, among a chattering crowd in the dining cart section, a small elevated table in front of me where my keyboard now rests as I bug it with type. To my right, the kitchen dishing out a foreign menu, both by flavor and script; I’m hungry, so I’ll try it. “N?h?o. Menu?!” “Ah, xièxie!” To my left, the crowd, filled with wide smiling faces, made up of families, friends, associates and strangers, I’m guessing, and a little girl barfing into a plastic bag, being helped by her un-phased, “been-here-before”, loving parents; no one minds, they are busy enjoying the scene, though a few pair of curious eyes are caught by the bald “M?iguórén” (American) lone and curious himself in the corner.
Here I am, such as I am.
The moment in time with which we are given, the one we currently find ourselves encompassed by, embedded with rather, this is where we are, and to the best of our understanding, this is what we are; people, stuck in this spec of existence, alive.
“The flat car sometimes crept, sometimes went extremely fast, often stopped — went up hill, downhill, around curves, along straightaways. Whatever poor Billy saw through the pipe, he had no choice but to say to himself, “That’s life.”
This is life. I’m surrounded by it. A part of it even. I am life, and so is everything and everyone else around me, far beyond me, beyond this place, even more. Yes, this is a moment, and though we are limited in sight, sometimes in mind, to only our little pipe hole view of it, this moment is massive. It encompasses everything and everyone you know, and for that matter, don’t.
You are only a part of it.
I return to my seat, only a short time later to again return to the dining cart, due mainly to restlessness, part also out of angst; I’ve never been one to rest easy during travel. I’m too curious. I’m too wound up. I have too much on the mind. I wonder where everyone is heading? And if they’re heading there, where ever there is, by choice or by have to? I’m heading now by choice, on return by have to. No one from the looks of it seems concerned, at least on the outside. What about the inside? There are a few dull expressions filling this cart now, whether by idleness, worry, contemplation, or something else of this sort, as we maintain impressive speed, hurling with grace and subtle rocking through farming lands along the route. The younger crowd is still playing. Some drawing, some eating or attempting to eat, others yanking the fake flowers out of their waterless wicker vases placed on each table and examining them, then quickly reaching to yank out another. There’s another little girl twirling about, table to table as she ignores the call of I’m guessing her father. She might need to throw up too later on due to the dizziness she’s playfully tumbling into. She’s having fun though. All the younger crowd is. I don’t know about the more-aged crowd anymore. Some are eating or attempting to eat, others are poking around on their phones or laptops, one man is putting pen to paper, maybe he’s drawing, and some are examining the fake flowers shoved into their waterless wicker vases, not yanking them out, though. They’d probably like to yank them out. They seem preoccupied this time, though. Aren’t we all? I wonder if by choice or by have to? Either way, we’re all heading there; somewhere.
“You sound to me as if you don’t believe in free will,” said Billy Pilgrim.
“If I hadn’t spent so much time studying Earthlings,” said the Tralfamadorian, “I wouldn’t have any idea what was meant by “free will.” I’ve visited thirty one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will.”
Here we are, such as we are.
And, this thing we call time has no care or concern of our wants or our desires anyhow. It doesn’t work for or against us in any way, though we’ve played it up to do that, for us or against us, romanticizing our lives for needed substance, I’m guessing. Hell, time isn’t even a real thing, Einstein said it, I think. Anyway, it’s as if we needed something to fill the spaces between this and that, the spaces between until this turned into that, the spaces until this became that, or the ones found pointing us to do this first and then that next. Time we’ll call it, and we will tie to this thing now known as time all of our most important things this life can, not must, contain. But, this can we will turn into must, so now this life must contain them. And we will spend our time making sure those things happen. And to make those things happen, time will need to be spent. So we will make things worth more time then they really should take, increasing in mind the value of this time, because the big things now take and demand the most of it, and applying it in pursuit towards things which take more time to acquire, demands thus more time for you to give, and you willingly will, and more and more time for it to take, and it gladly will. Give the time, give them time, give the time, only to have it taken. And then, no time left. Where is there free will in this? I guess you can choose how you fill said time, but following the form of times design, do you choose, or is it chosen for you? I think I’ll order a coffee. “N?h?o. H?i k?f?i?” Yeah, I’m in the mood for one.
That is a very Earthling question to ask Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?
Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.”
Take me back to the amber. No. Let me realize it myself. Wait. I’m already here.
I’m ready now.
Back in the dining cart again I find myself. It’s full this time, again with families and friends, associates and strangers; people. The aroma of the foreign cuisine fills the space as my hunger again toys with the thought of succumbing to its warmth, to its welcome, as others have already decided to do so and have delved in, face first, enjoying the innate pleasantries of its simple yet meaningful serving; there are three plastic microwaveable options to choose from; one with chicken, one with the beef, and the other a vegetable option I believe, but damn do they hit the spot when hunger finds us. A baby awakens and begins to cry, but is quickly eased down by the loving caress of her mothers embrace; she’s now sleeping again. Another mother watches as her young boy devours the plastic container of food in front of him; she’s concerned and hopeful he finishes it all; you can tell by her look, she’s a mother. A dad of two catching some much needed sleep either before the trip begins or now after its end; you can tell by his look; he doesn’t have one; eyes closed, body limp, the arm he’s slumped upon without doubt asleep as well. Others are still poking away at their phones, maybe texting a loved one, maybe reading an article, perhaps playing some video game, or maybe doing whatever it is that makes them happy; it doesn’t matter, let them enjoy it if they do. Some are conversing amongst each other as we continue our trek through this massive stretch of farm land, still hurling by, still subtly rocking; their conversations remaining as foreign to me as the menu, but their presence shares a commonplace; their warmth, their welcome; it doesn’t matter what they are talking about, it’s human connection and thats a wonderful thing. Another little girl, standing between her fathers legs, head barely clearing the table, appearing to be eating a bowl of noodles for the first time, excessively and forcefully attempting to blow away the heat of the bite, only to find that her efforts are spent having not cooled the spoonful; she’s not concerned, shes hungry. She takes a swig of water from a bottle which dwarfs her little hands to wash away the sting of the scalding noodles, coughs because the sip must have gone down the wrong pipe, then hurries back to begin again with another round of excessively and forcefully attempting to blow away the heat of the next scoop; she’s enjoying those noodles and she finishes the whole bowl of them in this manner; still unconcerned, tongue slightly burnt, I’m guessing, but fed and happy to be so. Stewardesses carefully toeing around, hurried taking orders and taming the nerves of the crowd as they serve out not only plates and snacks and drink, but more effectively and appealing, attention; they are great at what they do and impressively patient; also, a sight for sore eyes I’m unashamed to admit, or admire. Farm land has turned into outskirts of towns, still rural, but in its own ways charming; I could spend sometime here; only a short while though. And I, the bald lone “M?iguórén”, again in the corner, looking around and typing away, taking it all in, and realizing the richness of this amber, of this moment I’m a part of; all of this, and much more my capacity of attention missed, in this one moment, the only one either one of us here can see, but rich enough none the less, no need for anything more.
We may be bugs, stuck in the amber, but this amber is enough. There is everything we could ever need, here, now, in the amber which embodies us.
“That’s one things Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones.”
“Um,” said Billy Pilgrim.
Here we are, such as we are; and whether or not we are pleased with this moment, we have no other choice than in accepting it, and I believe we can do so by realizing and embracing the richness of the amber we find ourselves stuck in. Free will is found in the appreciation and the realization of the moment we are embedded; in our acceptance and in our contribution to such. This moment is all we are given, its richness derived from our acknowledgement, our autonomy actualized in our choice to partake, in our chance to just be.
Though a bug stuck in amber cannot choose to move freely, no matter its struggle to, at least that amber is rich, and in its richness it is sweet, it is warm, and it is golden. It’s not nothing. It’s very much something, indifferent to our neediness to know why me, why us, why anything.
It is something.
Here we are, such as we are.
You are only a part of it, yes, but you are, most definitely, a part of it.
A little bug, stuck in the amber of now, and its enough.
“So it goes…
Oh, wow! We’re already in Xi’an. “Zàijiàn”. “Bàibài”
This post was inspired by my reading of Kurt Vonnegut’s classic ‘Slaughterhouse-Five‘. I recommend highly your reading of this book as well.