“Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.” Kurt Vonnegut
I have been writing this blog for two years now. I have no particular theme or slant. I have written essays from the heart and sprinkled in a few short stories. I started out writing two blogs a month, but then thinned it out to one per month because, frankly, I had less to say, and I didn’t want to waste your time with drivel.
As a commercial pilot, the best adjective I can use to describe a successful day is – uneventful. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. I didn’t have to deal with any life-threatening emergency. Everyone behaved. The weather cooperated. Eventful days are the days when things go awry, and I really earn my money. I prefer the uneventful days.
I can’t say that I prefer an uneventful life.
So, here I sit at my computer trying to come up with a blog for February, but nothing is coming to me because January was, you guessed it, uneventful. That’s not to say the nothing happened. We rang in the New Year. I earned my wage with several uneventful days at work. I changed burnt out light bulbs and made the usual household repairs. I went to soccer games, volleyball games, and school events. I enjoyed birthday parties, and social events with friends. I had long talks with my children, and meaningful conversations with my wife. I dealt with the drama of daily life. My calendar was quite full, but for the most part the month was uneventful.
So, where does that leave this blog? Do I waste your time describing an uneventful month?
I recently read a novella titled, “A Short Stay in Hell” by Steven L. Peck. It was an intriguing story where the protagonist dies and finds himself in a special type of hell. He is sent to the Library of Babel, as described in the classic short story by Jorge Luis Borges. It is a vast library that contains one authentic volume perfectly describing each person’s life, along with all the possible variants. It doesn’t sound like such an expansive library, but when you do the math the minimum number of books looks something this – 251,312,000. Based on the average size of a book, the Library of Babel could contain enough books to fill the entire known universe.
The protagonist could leave hell the moment he found the volume that accurately depicted his life. Accurately meaning that it included all the events and had no errors (misprints, misspelled words, incomplete sentences). He was immortal and could take as long as he needed to find the book. Since there was a finite number of books, and he had unlimited time, theoretically, he would eventually find the book and be released from hell. The only problem is that most of the books were full of gibberish, and with that many books on the shelves, that’s a universe full of nonsense.
So what do an uneventful January and the Library of Babel have in common?
The truth is that if we wrote down all of the menial daily events in our lives, much of our book would be filled with pages of insignificant sentences, and paragraphs of empty prose. Who would want to read about every banal act of living? Do you care about my struggle to balance my budget or keep the yard clean? Why would you care to review how I cleaned the kitchen or disinfected the kid’s bathroom? What a snoozer it would be if the book only contained the tale of toil that makes up our daily lives. Like the books in the Library of Babel, our lives can easily be filled with gibberish.
So we press forward everyday, wading through the waters of banality hoping for something eventful. At the same time we fear the unknown lurking beneath that water, and we refuse to plunge into the deep waters of the extraordinary.
Will we accomplish anything today worth reading about a hundred, a thousand, or a million years from now, or will the story of our life be like one of the books in the Library of Babel full of random characters without meaning? How do we put together at least one complete sentence in the story of our life that will stand for eternity?
The other day I bought cinnamon rolls at the supermarket. When the grey-haired gentleman bagging my groceries stuffed the rolls into the bag he said, “My wife used to make these all the time.” I could see tears in his eyes. I could only assume from his age, and the emotion he displayed over the rolls, that his dear wife had passed and left him alone. Would you consider a story about a woman cooking her husband cinnamon rolls significant enough to read? It doesn’t seem like much, but it was enough to evoke deep emotion from the man.
My wife has taught me to value relationships more than things. Admittedly, I have been a slow learner. If we want to fill the book of our life with anything other than gibberish, it must include paragraphs of daring dialogue, pages of shared human experiences, and chapters about our service to others. The only words that will give the prose from our book any lasting meaning, are the words we write in the tablets of the heart.
If we want an eventful life filled with meaning, we must nurture relationships with our fellow human beings. After a thousand years the only sentences that will carry any meaning, are the ones we wrote with the ink of love upon the pages of friendship. This Valentine’s Day write one complete sentence in your life’s book filled with words, and deeds, of love that will stand the test of time.