I stood and watched, four straight minutes I watched, fully aware that this scene had already played out in a 90s movie. You remember it too, I’m sure, the plastic bag scene in American Beauty, that 1999 film that took more turns than a Mario Kart track with Kevin Spacey before we knew him to be the insane creepy sexual predator that he is, where the guy video taped a plastic bag dancing in a little wind gust for quite awhile, the slow-mo, the music, and this quote that followed it:
It was one of those days when it’s a minute away from snowing, and there’s this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. And this bag was just, dancing with me, like a little kid beggin’ me to play with it – for fifteen minutes. And that’s the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know that there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video’s a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember – I need to remember. Sometimes, there’s so much beauty in the world – I feel like I can’t take it, like my heart is just going to cave in.
This happened to me as I walked down to check the mail, I stood as a little whirlwind, a dust-devil without the dust so perhaps a leaf devil, twisted and danced its way down the road across the street from where I stood. It chose four little leaves, the shade of brown that comes after the fire orange and yellow that fades, the lightness after the freeze and frost curls the ends tight upon itself as though its holding tight to endure all the cold still to come. They were picked up, spun, swirled, and waltzed back and forth on the street that slopes West, sometimes the leaves touched, held one another by stiff stem, sometimes they separated and lifted in some perfect synchronization, sometimes they settled as though to rest a spell before lifting again, the ebb and flow that comes operatic and choreographed. But by what, and why?
I have long believed with a certainty reserved for knowledge that comes only through experience, that there’s a force bigger than us all at work behind the scenes of things, there’s an energy, and if we are quiet enough, if we open our eyes wide, sometimes we can see it. I know not if this force is a benevolent one, as sometimes I know it does things that are so categorically not so, but I don’t believe it malevolent either. I think above all things, it strives to be, and for me this has always been enough.
So lost in nonsense we have become, faces glued to devices, ears tuned to the incessant din of news that’s so perpetually awful because rotten headlines sell better than good ones, we miss the magic from this force, the magic it’s constantly trying to show us. These moments are anchoring ones, and they are so perfectly subtle that if we don’t look, we don’t see, and I think this has always been on purpose. There’s a line in my favorite movie, Joe vs. the Volcano, where Patricia says to Joe,
“My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.”
The Universe hides itself in subtlety so not everyone will know. It relies on the distraction of the stumbling masses to forget to wake up, to neglect to pay attention, and the why of this is something I’ve always wondered about. I too oscillate here, and wonder what would become of us if we all realized the truth, if we all woke at the same time and felt the same beating heart of this invisible force that connects all things. I leap to peace, and imagine only the most beautiful outcomes should we all rise in consciousness together, but then I stop, then I wonder and trust that if all this is still being camouflaged in mundanity, there must be a reason, there must be.
The Dark Forest theory of alien intelligence speaks to this, the idea that perhaps the reason that after all these years sending signals out into the perceived emptiness of space and not hearing back, is because every advanced intelligence, every brilliant civilization out there amongst the stars knows that contact will inevitably mean destruction due to the ignorance and fear by those it reaches. Perhaps this force here, this beautiful energy that tries so hard to be kind, feels this same, perhaps its evolved so far beyond what we can comprehend it knows, that if more than we lucky, we select few, were to know of its existence, we’d end up trying to strip it like a resource, harness it to our advantage, and eventually cause its extinction. It’s what we do, isn’t it? It’s what we have always done.
I have seen it play, I have seen the universe dance wildly, I have seen it shock me with its simple beauty, its stunning grace. I don’t have a lot of close friends, and I am alone a lot, and this is a truth I don’t share with many because when I think of this, I realize I have never once felt lonely. It’s not hyperbole to say I feel this force, this strange singing energy, every moment of my life, and at those times that I might trick myself into thinking I do not, I realize it’s only me, distracted and forgetful me, that’s to blame. It’s here, it’s all around us, and it’s whispering in ten thousand languages, hoping that we, we few that are worthy of holding that knowledge, of keeping its secret, will remember, will see, will believe. It sings to us in birdsong, in the sound of wind through the tops of Ponderosa pines, the hum of the sea washing up on some sandy shore, or pulling back stones rounded from eons of tide. It dances for us, in murmuration, in leaves that float, in the swaying of a palm to a rhythm altogether silent.
I wonder of a world awake, but fall back into the grasp of some gentle calm when I understand that this force, this universe that plays and jokes and whispers and sings, knows enough to keep itself safe, to keep the beauty for those who seek to find it. I imagine it wonders, and probably often, how so many of its displays go unnoticed by people that should be seeing, how many times it dances to an empty room, though its filled with so many of us blind to its waltzing.
I stood and watched it play, the leaves, the swirl, the chill that faded out in the haze of mesmerization, and felt tears well up so big they wouldn’t fit anymore. I let them fall, and in their tumbling, called them applause for the dancing I was gifted.
You, you here, you too are chosen, though you may have forgotten. You are they of finger-tapped shoulders, of soft words shushed into ears, of appreciation from this gorgeous grace that is all around us. Remember, please, and open your eyes. It’s here, it’s always been here, find it again.
The universe plays,
dances wildly and wonders
if we’ll even see.