The Light in the Dark

Wren closed his eyes and pushed his head into the makeshift pillow that was his balled up sweatshirt, feeling the vibrations that hummed through the plane. Outside the portal window, a giant hunk of metal under the wing, presumably a turbine, was rattling—presumably it was supposed to do that. Then the rumble grew louder and the shaking spread to his seat; his whole world was being put through the extra-strength spin cycle. With his eyes squeezed shut he saw the rattling engine snap off, soon followed by the rest of the wing. They were still gaining altitude but now they were sharply curving to the right, banking hard, almost completing a barrel roll. A thundering explosion signaled the loss of the other wing and now they were falling, hurtling earthward at a terrifying speed. The beautiful symmetry of the city from above rose up to greet them, a perfect grid of grey blocks that grew and grew and grew until….

Wren never imagined the impact—the explosion, if movies are to be believed—and he certainly never imagined the after effects, not from any perspective. He did not imagine the news crews gathering to soak up every detail of the horrific scene or the families gathering to mourn their losses, nor did he imagine what it would be like for the passengers, once again lining up to hand over their tickets and find their seats on the flight to the afterlife. Wren never imagined death itself—maybe he was not imaginative enough. His imagination was interested only in the ‘what if’, and he had long ago learned to keep even this to himself. Few other people found it as interesting a concept to consider, and most people were less than enthused to be reminded of their own mortality, even in the hypothetical—maybe they were not good-humored enough.

The plane had settled itself onto the horizontal plane of its cruising altitude and the turbine on the wing had long since ceased to rattle. Invisible air currents would cause the occasional bump of turbulence, but death was far less likely for the remaining duration of the flight. Wren fidgeted with the uncomfortable buckle of his seat belt and looked around the cabin. He could still imagine leaping out the window, if he could somehow open it, and could almost feel the cold wind that would whip past his face as he plummeted into and through the fluffy layer of clouds below. Gosh, how surprised everyone would be if he just up and jumped out the window. Man, how exciting that would be, what a rush!

Wren did not consider himself morbid or macabre or death-obsessed. Sure he imagined all these horrible scenarios, but after all, he never thought about the actual death. It had nothing to do with that. Besides, he never actually did it. What was wrong with just thinking about it? It was not suicidal if he did not have any intention of doing it, and most of the time he had no intention at all. None in the least! It was just wild to imagine it, to imagine doing something that you had never done—and would never get to do again. Wren knew he was not suicidal because he never thought of killing himself in a boring way. Suicidal people just wanted to be dead. Wren liked thinking about all the possible ways you could make yourself dead.

As a child, Wren had been taught that thoughts were meant to be shared. No one said that exactly, but everyone—his teachers, his parents, his friends, the people on TV—seemed so eager to share all their thoughts; it was obvious that was what you were supposed to do. So it took a while for him to accept that most other people did not want to hear his ‘what if’s about jumping to your death (or plane crashes, or car crashes, or freak tornadoes, or lightning strikes). Most other people shrunk away in horror and told him not to think such thoughts—as if he had a choice—and were either scared of him or felt sorry for him. They assumed he was depressed, and for many years he believed them.

When he was old enough to have some self-confidence, though, he realized he was not sad at all. In fact, he probably was not even different at all. Wren decided that most likely everybody else was harboring some secret thoughts that they considered unpalatable, thoughts that they kept to themselves. But he wished they would not. Everybody was so quick to share their thoughts that made other people happy, or inspired, or amazed. Why were they so ashamed of any other type of thought? Besides, he did not see anything negative about the death-scenario thoughts that he always had in his head. Wren wished everyone would open up their minds and let people take a look inside. He was amazed enough by his own imagination—imagine the imagination of others! Imagine the combined imagination of the entire human race, if such a thing could be done; if so many minds could be flawlessly melded and so many ideas could be harnessed together, imagine what wonders would be born from that! Wow!

But…

Wren did not even want to think it, but that fact made it even more likely, he thought. What if…shudder…the thoughts he had were the least dark thoughts that anyone had? What if nobody wanted to hear his dark thoughts because they reminded them of their own, far darker, thoughts? What if some thoughts really should not be shared? If even a few people held inside their heads ideas too dark to be shared, then when everyone’s skulls were cracked open and their innermost musings spilled out and pooled together in a great ocean of human imagination, the result would not be so beautiful after all. These unhappy people probably kept those thoughts to themselves because they knew if they were ever released from the cranium in which they were caged, the world would not be such a wonderful place.

And that is how Wren saw the world: as a wonderful place. That was why he did not mind thinking thoughts of flying to his death; because he thought it was wonderful to think anything, and it was wonderful to live, and these sorts of thoughts made him realize this and remember just how wonderful it all was. The possibilities of life were infinite, so why would anyone actually want to kill themselves? Sure that would be a new experience, but there are so many other new experiences to be had before going the one-way route that puts an end to it all. Wren thought possibilities were wonderful, and new experiences too, and really there could not be anything more wonderful than imagination because it allowed him to create new possibilities and experience them right there in the safety and comfort of his own head. My, what a wonderful world it was.

Well…

If it really was that wonderful, then, what if his were the darkest thoughts out there. What if nobody wanted to hear his dark thoughts because they really did scare them—terrify them—because they thought no such things and shuddered to know that anyone did at all?

Oh! What a glorious, beautiful, wonderful, pure ocean of thought that would be then, formed by the leaked consciousness of all of humanity. Wren’s thoughts would pollute that wonderful pool, but perhaps no one would notice because he was just one man, after all, and his thoughts were not that dark, really, right? Mmm, that would be a wonderful thought to think: that he was the foulest, darkest, worst person on the planet, and that every other human was pure in comparison. If that were the case, maybe he should kill himself. Wow, now that was a morbid thought, but so far from the truth that it was nothing to worry about. As happy as he was, as much of a dreamer and an optimist as he was when it came to the beauty and wonder of life, Wren was not nearly so idealistic when it came to people. He was not cynical, merely reasonable. There were many bad people out there with dark thoughts, and he knew this for a fact because there were so many people with dark actions and the human mind is capable of so much more than the human body. He loved people because each one carried inside his or her head a wonderful imagination and therefore the power of infinite possibilities and experiences, but he was not so naïve as to think that everyone was a good person or would not necessarily use their infinite imagination to explore very dark possibilities.

Wren was at peace with his thoughts, and did not worry about if they were dark or how dark, or if they were light, if that was the opposite, or why dark was always bad and scary to people and light was always good. Well, he thought about that, but he did not worry. Humans have always been afraid of the dark—the unknown—and he knew as a species we are very far from seeing darkness for what it is, which is infinite possibilities, and wonderful. He smiled to himself as he pulled down the window shade, blocking out the high atmosphere sunlight. The passenger next to him turned on his personal overhead light and went back to reading his magazine.

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