Saturday, August 01, 2009

My Pebble

My junior year in college, I lived in an old duplex. One night, I walked into the kitchen and noticed a metal plate on the wall, painted the same yellow as the rest of the wall. I had never seen the plate before, so I was curious. I took out three of the screws and let the plate swing down. I looked into the gaping black hole in my wall, wondering why there wasn't any insulation. Suddenly, the most awful, cacophonous, Dantean screaming cackle exploded from the gaping black hole. It cut off as suddenly as it exploded, and an eerie, husky chuckle bubbled up from just below the hole. I squinted at the gaping black hole, willing my pupils to open wider. At the bottom edge of the gaping black hole, an even blacker shape floated up. I leaned closer. I stared. I blinked. And when my eyes opened, I was looking at the popcorn ceiling of my bedroom.

Was it a dream? Or was it a doorway to Hell expertly hidden in the middle of the night like in some Orwellian fantasy?

The evidence of my roommate, his fiancee, and my fiancee all supported the dream theory. They had never seen a yellow plate or heard any scary laughter. My own examination of the kitchen also supported the dream theory. But my eyes and my ears refused to believe they could be misled. If you can't trust your own eyes and ears, what can you trust?

I teetered at the peak of two slippery slopes. On my right hand, if I believe my eyes and ears, then I open myself up to a scary, scary world where devils hide in the walls and nobody knows it.

On my left hand, if I believe the other witnesses, I admit the fallibility of my senses. And if I didn't really hear that cacophonous cackle, how could I be sure I had heard them right? Worse---how could I be sure that the same devil who took the yellow plate away didn't make my friends lie in an effort to keep us all from knowing the truth?

And that, my friends, is where we all stand. When we're not teetering on the edge of insanity, we wander through a miasma of uncertainty, tripping on rocks hidden in the fog of misperception and lies. Sometimes, we pick up a pebble. We stare at it, contemplate it, dissect it, and digest it. Then, we hold up the pebble for all our friends and proclaim, "This! This, my friends, is truth!"

Maybe it is. But it's only one pebble: 2 or 3 grams of matter on a planet with 5,974,200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 other grams of matter.

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