From the streets outside my door, not 10 minutes ago, came a series of broken wails and three short sequences of rapid fire pops followed by one last scream. I took me a few seconds to decide what it was that I’d heard, and a few seconds longer to rise to the window and try to catch a glimpse. I saw nothing and so sat on the floor by the window, listening in. Not two minutes later came the shrill song of a siren. I Googled news reports and came up short. I heard a dog bark, some cars rushed by, casual voices rang through the streets, some horns sounded complaints, the scent of rush hour settled in.
“The human spirit was born when we dared to dream beyond death,” the fictional DJ at KBHR suggests in “Northern Exposure.” Optimism about the human condition is out of style, optimism about nature, even reality itself, is out of style. We place a very high premium on certainty and invariably take the engineer’s road over the mystic's. We believe mysteries are problems, solvable, boring little things, that there is a proposition-shaped answer to everything. We believe the mystic’s path is the same as the engineer’s, if it carries us forward, and otherwise, a dead end. The one who favors meaning over certainty is avoiding The Truth, that great tragedy we know to be bedrock, and it is obvious, we say, that if all the mysteries of life were solved by concrete, observable, communicable means, the mystical would be obsolete. Should we, with sufficient scientific cleverness, carry some semblance of consciousness beyond the boundaries of our flesh, mystery would be condemned here too – a balm for the heart, denying us the only solution to the ultimate problem. We’d best face the facts, sonny – truth alone is immortal. We collectively believe the human spirit was born out of our awareness of death.
There is a softness to the twilight hours, the mind seems permeable, the senses grow placid and yielding, easily invaded by the fast-fading shadows of our dreams. It is in these blurry hours, when our harshest awareness must strain to come online, that we are freest. Our stricter faculties are tasked only with deciphering sight and sound, as we are not yet too wise for the impossible, they grow large, and kind, and larger still, surrounding all the curious things the dawn will banish.