Today as every day, I woke up to a bright but vague hand pulling me out of bed. It tugged at me urgently and, since my dreams were fading quickly from mind and there was nothing else I could see pulling at me, I grasped the hand in mine and allowed myself to be dragged along. Though this hand appears insubstantial, it is quite solid and strong, and once you’ve taken hold of it, it is actually easier to run alongside it than to let go. I have a theory that the hand only looks vague because it is divided among so many of us, and that it remains strong because our holding on is actually also holding everyone else on as well. We are always moving, every day, though sometimes in a frantic, half-stumbling run and sometimes just trudging slowly forward. I can’t be certain what determines our pace, but when the hand tugs on me harder, I know I must go faster or I’ll be left behind. We continue our mass scramble until well after dark when we reach our beds again, which have found us wherever we are, and we are abandoned to climb into them and into the adventure of dreams.
Every once in a long while, I pause and look around and wonder why we bother going at all. It seems that we are always going, and going nowhere. I wonder if there is anywhere that we could go, or if nowhere lies in every direction. I wonder where we started, or if that was nowhere too. Then the world tugs on my hand, and I comply, put my head down and rush off again, off towards nowhere. It never seems quite worth it to drop the world completely, pull myself out of its grasp, and let it go on without me. I guess I’m hoping that one day, we will be going somewhere, and am afraid that if I’ve let go, they will have all gotten there without me.
When I do look up, though, I see nowhere on every horizon, blank and white and uninviting, with no indication that beyond it in any direction is someplace else. Yet there is a horizon, and every day I’m sure we cross it in some direction, and always I hope, beyond this one. Most of the time, though, it’s easiest just to keep my head down and hurry along within the instantaneous here that we create in our going along. The very odd thing is, although nowhere is in every direction and on every horizon, the instantaneous here is a bright and noisy thing, no more a place perhaps than our surroundings, but an event, and if I keep from looking at the horizon, there is an illusion that we are moving along through someplace, instead of merely moving along. But I find it very difficult to confine myself to the walls of this set, to this scenery we all help create. Even if I keep my head down, the brightness and noise of this ever-hurrying world frequently cause me to retreat still further until, pushed inside myself, I am outside those walls again, and see the nowhere that is in front of me.
Sometimes I wonder achingly if anyone can point me in the right direction. As we hurry along, I see those who seem to know where they are going. They are not holding the bright, vague hand of the world, but stride alongside as if this is the path they have chosen by their own will and judgment. Once, when we were only strolling along, I made my way gently over to one of these who was walking nearby. As I drew up alongside, my fellow traveler turned to me and showered me with a radiant smile. I introduced myself, nervously, and asked how she managed such confidence as to her direction, without being led as I am.
With a soft pride, she answered, “I am led by Another’s hand, which guides me to the only Place worth going.”
I found her answer strange for two reasons. First, I could see no other hand by which she might be led, and second, it seemed quite a large coincidence that her Hand should be leading her in exactly the same direction ours was leading all of us. I entertained the thought that perhaps she was split in two, and her other half was being led elsewhere and in another direction holding this other hand, while this half followed the world.
Just as I was about to ask her about this, though, the hand tugged me into a slow jog. My companion glanced about her with wide eyes and, seeing the rest of uspicking up speed, did likewise. “I’ll tell you more later, when we slow down again” she puffed. Disheartened, I allowed myself to drop back several feet as I continued to lope along, half-dragged by the bright, vague hand.
Almost immediately, I found beside me a cheerful, independent runner. He laughed and nodded towards the other. “There is no other hand,” he declared. “She and the rest like her are simply deluded by wishful thinking.”
“But you,” I countered, astonished at such open judgment, “You don’t seem to be holding the bright, vague hand either.”
“Is that what you call it?” He laughed again. “It certainly is vague, and bright too I suppose, or at least colorful. No, I don’t choose to be dragged along like some. No offense,” he added suavely. “It just doesn’t suit me.”
“But then do you know where we’re going? Or why do you go this way?”
"Yes,” and the smile slipped and twisted cynically on his lips, “I know where we’re going.”
Though I wasn’t about to assume he did, hope sparked in me at his assertion, however cynically made. “Where?”
“Nowhere!” he cried triumphantly.
“Oh. Well," I faltered, "that’s what I always supposed, anyway. But why do you follow along then?”
“Haven’t you noticed?” he said. “There’s nowhere else to go. Or haven’t you looked around you? And if I’m going nowhere anyway, I might as well enjoy myself as I’m doing it.” With that, he pasted his smile back on his face and capered off.
I continued the next several hours in my more accustomed silence, occasionally drifting alongside someone, but not exchanging anything meaningful, just sharing a few feet of ill-defined path. The exchanges I’d already had left me feeling depressed and resigned. Of course I’d noticed that there was nowhere else to go. How many nights, released by the hand, have I wandered off a small distance into emptiness, only to lose hope and look again for the constancy and oblivion of my bed? How many hours have I spent straining my eyes towards endless empty horizon, vainly hoping for some distinguishable irregularity? I am quite uncomfortably aware that there is nowhere else to go. Yet how could I find joy in this pointless, ceaseless going?
All I wish for is some goal toward which my feet could point, that my steps would be ever purposeful, moving me closer to someplace new. And somehow, I can’t truly believe that all around me is nowhere. Deep inside, I am certain that beyond some horizon is a place worth going - I only wish I knew in which direction it lay. I guess I’ll just keep holding onto the bright, vague hand and hope that one day I’ll spot something else to guide me.