This is how it starts: hope, vitality, youth, dreams, passion. The time is lined up in front of you, layer upon undefined layer, and you can be anything, do anything, establish anything you want. It's all there. A tower of shimmering potential, shifting in the mercurial, 4th dimensional clouds of "future" as they exist in the mind of each one of us. Even those poor souls born into disadvantage and dysfunction know about the promise of the future. You can start a business, go to school, become a super hero. This is the land of opportunity. The future holds the key.
The only catch is, starting is easy. It’s following through that’s tough. There’s a gap between the beginning of most things and the point where they’re established that eats most efforts whole. Almost nothing makes it across. If we could see all the businesses, patents, products, and artistic efforts— not to mention people —that got sucked into it over the years, it would undoubtedly be enough detritus to block out the sun. The “gap”, in the end, would be revealed as a massive, yawning void with winds so powerful their pull could prevent the flight of even some of the most colossal birds.
That’s the thing about following through. It takes blood, and sweat, and guts, and faith. Most people don’t have it. You have to be inspired, or obsessed, or insane. It’s much easier to simply do something that has already made it across, something established. The hard work’s already been done— by somebody else, years ago. It was their sweat, inspiration, obsession and madness that made it happen, and that is, ultimately, the only reason you get to collect benefits while doing an average of three hours work in an eight hour day. (Hey, those are the statistics.)
The only price for such a lifestyle? Your time. But you're fine with that, for now. The trade-off seems fair, and hey, there’s plenty of time. Just do this thing someone else set up and get a roof over your head and some food in your mouth. You can work towards your dreams on the side. That yawning void outside the window isn't going anywhere. You can approach it any time you want.
And so it goes. The days pass, turning into weeks, turning into months, turning into years. You know the story. People show up, people disappear. Some bite, others bleed. Income increases, time decreases. Debt arrives on the scene. So do "brand new" people, while older ones begin to ail. The void, once so near outside your window, begins to creep slowly away, the sound of it's howling growing steadily more distant by the day.
You try to stop it, but it's too late, the scenario is locked in, playing itself out, piling dependencies up, straddling your back with responsibilities, realities, understandings, terrible truths— all of it, too much —while the mirror continues to mock. This whole thing, life, is already half over: the face is falling, the hair is greying, the weight is gaining, the joints are aching and the memories are grating, with no sign of any of it slowing down at all…
And you think, looking out the window now, the abyss nowhere in sight, about the others. Those rare souls who made it across and established themselves. Surely they are happy, over there. Surely they are wearing smiles on their faces, unobstructed and beautiful in the sun. Surely they are living happy, self-created lives. Surely they have forged their identities, formed their surroundings, built beautiful cities in their own images!
And here you are. Eaten by the system, eaten by your lack of ambition. Not only was your time stolen from you — by the sandman, no less, that dirty little thief in the night, that trickster wearing a mask made by society but bearing the features beneath of a face just a little too familiar — but your identity as well.
It’s the ultimate joke. The cheating hand that doesn’t get found out until long after the winnings have been spent; the terrible, sardonic truth of all of it all coming clear as the mask slips, cracked, from the worn face it no longer fits.
Your time is gone. It’s already been bought and sold. And in the sweat and boredom you shed, over the years, in the boxes that make up the building blocks of the institutions of our world — the factory farms that dismember our individuality, and that process, package and present the cellophane-wrapped final product for our consumption in the end — your identity was formed and handed to you.
You are utterly owned. There's a bar-code stamped onto the back of your bald head and, at this point, there’s probably very little you can do about it. It wasn’t a dry-run, this whole thing, it was the real deal, and you’re only finding out right now— now that it’s too late.
So this is it. Humanity was never human. And neither have you been. It’s one, great, psychopathic family spread out across the face of this fierce earth, chasing death and cannibalising one another in the process. And you were almost one of them.
And with this realization comes a lightning strike of undeniable, intuitive truth: you are not one of them. At least not any more. You may still live in their world, move about in their world, speak, talk and interact with them, but you can see things clearly now, thanks to this breakdown, thanks to this crisis. That’s the secret it holds. It was built into it from the very beginning. It could be no other way. Death and birth are irrevocably interlocked. Every breakdown is a re-birth in disguise. All is transformation in the name of vision, and all you have to do now is hold this vision, and things will inevitably continue to come clear.
And then something else comes: "they" are everywhere, even on the other side. Even those who did make it across found the King's sentinels waiting for them, sign and seal in hand. Of course they did. The free man remains as rare to this world as the pearl at the heart of the deepest ocean mollusk.
And from there, of course, you come to realize that it is not an “us and them” scenario. There is no “them”. There is only varying stages of “I”, only varying degrees of density to the masks each of us are wearing. Some are stone men. Others, infants in the sun.
So with all of this, you can brush yourself off, finally. You can take the wisdom that this terrible, wonderful life has granted you and begin to build anew. You can use the vision as it's been given to engineer a new way, a new path, a new track that will lead you to the edge of the canyon once again. Throw the mask in. Peer across to the other side. See the sentries gathered there, and take your lessons to the sky.
Maybe, just maybe, this time you won’t be denied.