Is anybody out there?
Does it really matter in a universe full of black holes?
Free subscriptions keep trickling in, but nary a comment or reaction. But that’s not what I’m going for. I see the column a a means of leaving a record for all who survive me to reminisce over what they’re missing.
But at 87 years old, the question posed in the title has another meaning. If the answer is yes, then I have something to look forward to. And please, don’t come back at me with a “molecular” answer. I want something more mystical (mythical?) like a “soul” - which the Sisters of St. John the Baptist promised me throughout grade school.
Somehow they got the memo. It must have been from God Himself because the tremulous scribbling betrayed an incorporeal hand grappling with an earthly pen. Besides it was in Italian, the preferred language of the Roman Curia.
I had a strange dream at the age of 12 when my father died. He came to me wearing a coat. Then he flashed me. Hanging from his neck was a large alarm-like clock. It had no hands. He held his finger to his lips and asked me to “tell no one.”
I’ve grappled with that message over the years. It was just so darn symbolic. Is he in an eternity where time does not exist? But why tell nobody? Is he waiting for me? Or was my subconscious delivering a different message?
I remember the nuns telling me that because my parents were divorced, both would be going to hell. My father’s image didn’t seem very singed. So maybe he was just telling me that it was ALL bullshit. Later the nuns’ bosses in Rome declared Purgatory to be non-existent. Would hell be next?
I need my father to close our distance gap in childhood and meet me in another dream. This time I want him to be more specific, or not come at all. If he’s really out there, then there must be others … to join.
My mother may have answered the question after she died, but it’s very iffy. One cold night in bed, I felt someone pull my blankets up over my ears. The next morning I asked my then wife if she had done this atypical thing. Looking at me like I was nuts, she said “of course not.” Then how could I explain the disarrayed slippers at the side of my bed which had been left neatly aligned the night before.
From my condo window in Moscow I can see many Russians scurrying about their business, in and out of the market. I pinch myself. How did I get here? Maybe I’m not. Are we all figments of each other’s imagination in a world which we alone inhabit? Or are we figments of an alien imagination? Probably tomorrow night I will dream again.
Sometimes in life, there is nobody out there but yourself. What else could have prompted me to pen these lines in college: I have no heart / I have no soul / No reason for the bell to toll / piercing through life’s hazy mist / to mourn for that which does not exist … for mortality is life’s meager lot / and none can escape the fickle heart / nor reach beyond the torpid sky / to touch the me that isn’t I.
Such thoughts led me to a college counselor. The look on his face stemmed to say, “Not another one.” Tell me what you’re looking for, he said. Without hesitating, I came back, “I just want a small one-room apartment in Greenwich Village where no one can bother me.” Neither did he hesitate, “How long have you wanted to commit suicide?” Whoah! Where did that come from? Shocked out of my aloneness, I left without making another appointment.
However, I always feared the monster lurking within. As long as I was not alone, it could never surface. One does not hang on to a failing marriage out of love for the other. It’s more out of fear of the self.
I now don’t seem to care as much if anybody’s out there. Loneliness is a self-constructed boundary. Relationships are the key. Then the question becomes, “Is anybody in here?” If you find yourself, there are sure to be others. Schizophrenia is not always a bad thing.
What got me started on this tangent? Blame it on Pink Floyd.