The Early Riser

Being an early riser who go to bed too early, I feel somewhat inferior to night owls – they get to watch late-night shows in time, they can enjoy multi-course late dinner and still have ample time to digest it, they will be the first to learn about the earthquakes that are doomed to take place around midnights, and they seem more attuned to higher forms of creativity that strike only in darker hours … In other words, they are the ones who stay wakeful on top of the most interesting happenings on earth, while I have to sleep through the greater part of the party. But it’s all been prewired, there’s nothing I could do about it.

In the wee hours before dawn, I got up, brushed teeth, got myself a cup of tea, and listened to the house. A floorboard creaked somewhere. The refrigerator let out a dubious sigh. The houseplants swayed in obscure corners, in tune with the hiss and whoosh of air vents. And there’s some mimic buzzing in the ears, like the faint sound of a cricket or cicada from faraway meadows. The world was at its sleep stage of vivid dreaming, while I sat awake in the quiet, relishing the most coolheaded hours of my life. Hopped on to my lap, the imaginary cat curled its soft woolly body into a bundle of endearment and warmth, like marshmallow in honeyed cocoa.

If I go to the window and look out, I’d see a dove-grey sky with scattered glimmers of fading stars. Trees disperse their boughs and branches upward in the gloom, like dervishes positioning for prayers and swirls. The vague outlines of houses loom in silence, accommodating people’s fitful sleeps and colored fragments of dreams. Occasionally, a light can be seen from some window – that must be another early riser, sipping their first cup of morning brew.

Sometimes, I’d see a headlight wobbling up and down along the trail laid beyond the trees that fence the back of my house. It must be a runner still holding on to his New Year’s Resolution. Is he training for his first marathon? Or a triathlon even? Or simply endeavoring to cultivate a new routine? Exerting oneself in a biting cold before dawn can’t be all that pleasant, but the passerby on the trail is doing it. Training for a sub-2-hour marathon must be agonizing, but runners everywhere carry on to attempt at it. It seems to be a common human trait, that we have to engage in some sort of struggle always, mental or physical, toward a self-important goal, as long as we live on. The process of actualizing any idea is never pleasurable – the more glamorous an idea is, the more arduous the process is bound to be. At any point in life, we are either painstakingly striving for some goal, or consumed alive by guilt for not trying.

As if we never realized that everything is fundamentally futile, and all efforts are pathetic in essence. Like a hamster running a staged wheel, or a beetle rolling a ball of dung, we can be just as unsuspecting.

All this inner chafing, where will it lead to when we die? There are various theories on life after death. The most platonic one for my liking is the one suggesting that the entire universe is a fruit of one’s imagination, that once you die the universe will no longer exist. But the more common crops of imagination mostly revolve on three outlines – we may return to dust, we might go to heaven, or we could start another round of birth and death, in the endless cycles of samsara.

The notion of ‘dust to dust’ has a special appeal of simplicity. There is something down-to-earth about it, unadorned and uncontrived. Nothing is left to linger or cling further. What’s done is done. But it’s kind of sad and at a loose end, given that all the efforts you had ever made – small or big, lighthearted or heavy-minded, playful or solemn, would just amount to dirt in the end.

On the other hand, eternal life in heaven sounds a bit overmuch extravagant. At first glance it’s auspicious, but once you start envisioning a soul drifting gleefully in the sky, like one of those ‘smiley face’ fireworks discharged on the 4th of July, only in a more perpetual manner than mere transient of fire and smoke, you begin to wonder if it would be worth all the prayers beforehand. With no occasional blues as the backdrops, what would glee even mean? If there’s no longer need to strive for anything – no room for improvement whatsoever – why would eternal life be something desired and needed? It would be like a prolonged act of tickling, at every risk to become weary. By essence, a drift in heaven seems to me almost an equivalence to the nullity in dust, only a difference of polish and gloss … But what do I know for sure?

The notion of reincarnation conjures up mixed feelings. It’s comforting to know that all efforts are not going to get wasted – everything will accumulate and contribute to the wholesomeness of next life. Say, if you play on a musical instrument this lifetime, and keep fine-tuning your craft, it might increase a slim likelihood for you to be a Mozart or Beethoven in next rebirth. Meanwhile it’s daunting to anticipate though, that many more cycles of painstaking act are still lined up ahead, like an ultramarathon that never ends. Imagine how Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain would feel, if right after they freed themselves from the burdens of lives, they only found themselves running smack into yet another round of living – probably with less skillful means this time, and absolutely no more artistic outlets. What an unthinkable cruelty. It makes you heartbroken just considering the possibility.

In the first crack of dawn on my deck, I saw the air teem with billions of dust specks – a cloudy day must be the forecast. The most curious question remains elusive to the unenlightened mind, while death could be a breath away, for anyone asleep or awake, young or old, ready or unprepared. Even if life seemingly goes on, it really goes nowhere but a dead end, if you view it from a long enough range. The only thing in life that will go on and might go somewhere, is nothing else but the plain old wonder called death …

Now the quiet hours are over, distractions of all sorts – external upheavals in parts but mostly inner noises, they overwhelm and prevail. This shifting, flickering mind is like some candle flame in an open doorway, susceptible to all winds from everywhere, never able to keep itself focused for long, on the one thing that matters.

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34 Comments

  1. ❤ You do have a gift

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You really think so? You could never imagine how much a compliment from a wordsmith like you would mean to me …

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks ! And Yes. I love good writing. And I love not just what you write, but how you write it. The best writing conveys emotions and images. I can see what you see, and feel what you feel. It is a gift

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I still can’t believe it! Yes, I can be insecure like that 🐏 I can sense people generally wouldn’t even bother to read what I write as soon as they see my drawing. But drawing cat makes me happy and I will not stop doing it. I just wish my writing would be able to speak for itself despite my childlike drawing … You are the one who makes me feel you are paying attention to my writing itself. And it is something I truly want

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          1. We have many “inner noises” feeding our “shifting, flickering mind.” Sometimes those noises make us feel isolated, other times confused, scattered, or like our voice is not heard. I hear you. Your words speak to me. I breathe them in. Be ready to receive what you want. You’ll discover you already have it ❤

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            1. You are a kind soul, thoughtful, sensitive, and fine-tuning. Thank you for being you

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  2. Dot, my beautiful furry friend: I have penned a new post with you in mind. Yes, you motivate me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dot – The ultimate question. Often I’m still just amazed that we don’t know where we come from or where we’re going. That, with the complexity of the natural world all around us indicates a Creator, a Creator with reasons and goals for all of us.
    Someday we’ll all find out, maybe… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the idea of Creator too, Leo. Looking at the beauty, creativity and complexity of this world, it’s only natural that we have to ponder there must be a Creator. There is solace too, in believing there are purposes preassigned to each and every one of us. I appreciate the comforting thought and inspiring words 🐠

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  4. Terrific writing! I’m a night owl myself but it sounds like sparrows find inspiration at different times. Your descriptive ability is wonderful, you captured the elusive nature of dawn with the opening passages, and the thoughtfulness of the rest of the piece made me reevaluate my own thoughts on the matter. I haven’t believed in an afterlife for a long time, but it still causes me some existential pain.
    I find some comfort in the idea that death might be like other forms of unconsciousness. I hope that we dream, for a little while after passing at least. And in that timeless, trackless existence we experience in dreams, well that might be where souls find their heaven or their hell. So I guess I’m saying, my goal in life would be to live in such a way that allows me to dream peacefully afterwards.
    Anyway, that was a though-provoking piece of writing for sure, thank you for sharing it with us all. 🙂

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    1. So you are a dreamer🐸 I find myself resonate with dreamer far better than with the overly practical type. The more existential pain a dreamer feels, the more enticing his poetry is destined to be – I just spent time ruminating on your site, although constantly being interrupted by daytime distraction of all sorts and my ADHD, I still find your words unmistakably authentic and honest. One can feel less alone reading all the inner struggles shared in your poetry. The pristine nature behind your self-depreciating manner is highly affecting🦒 Your strategy (as learned in the ‘About’ page) is working splendidly – you would be able to dream peacefully afterwards, I have no doubt about it. Thanks for dropping in sharing your thoughts 🐾

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      1. Oh my! No worries at all and thank you for your reflections on my work, it’s much appreciated. 🙂

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  5. It would be puzzling if someone on the other side of the world died and my tables and chairs suddenly disappeared.Let’s live for the moment.

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    1. Your paintings do catch all the moments pretty well.

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  6. The early bird gets the worm

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    1. Somehow I have an inkling that you usually get the worm as well 🐛

      Liked by 1 person

  7. “At any point in life, we are either painstakingly striving for some goal, or consumed alive by guilt for not trying.” OMG you cute little Zen master (Do you mind if I call you cute?) you are definitely not missing anything being an early-to-bed, early to rise person if it results in thoughts like these and writing like this! This is definitely not a child’s blog either, with your deceptively cute little cat drawings making it appear as if you, yourself, were child. Perhaps it is your childlike innocence which makes you so attractive. Eternal life does seem rather annoying, I mean, Vampires are immortal and look how perverse they get! And reincarnation, as you so well described from the point of view of Robin Williams, does seem like punishment, doesn’t it? Oh well. Perhaps the Universe itself is conscious, and when we die, we’ll return to the Universal consciousness like a drop of rain returning to the Ocean. Now that’s a peaceful thought. Your musings, on this particular morning, were exactly what I needed to read. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why would a marvelously-intelligent, nicely-aged, staggeringly sexy man (Do you mind if I call you sexy? I thought about using the word ‘HOT’ but decided it might be over stimulating for your mature heart rate) so ready to assume someone to be a child just because they draw child-like pictures? I wanted to ask. But then I realized what you believe it to be says much more about yourself than the thing itself … So it kind of settles it all. I love the way you say it, ‘a drop of rain returning to the Ocean’, it pacified all the nerves and well-stroked the cat. Thanks for the sexy yet paradoxically peaceful thought, a marvel only a brilliant mind could create 🦉

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      1. You really know how to peer into a my soul…perhaps my writing style is more revealing than I ever imagined. Hot would not be overstimulating…and “sexy yet paradoxically peaceful” may mean I may have arrived to embody both the Yin and the Yang. Thank you for the breathtaking words.

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        1. Congratulations on transcending yourself from your cisgender (a term I learned only from your all revealing writing) to a new pinnacle of transgender – the Yin Yang hermaphrodite state. The view up there must be captivating.

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          1. LOL! With you, my original heterosexual state would return quite quickly. Of that, I am certain. But do not mistake me for a hermaphrodite or even a Eunuch; rather, appreciate that I love humanity with a fervor that transcends race, religion or culture. And yes, from this viewpoint, it is quite exhilarating. But even from this height, you are a breath of fresh, cool, satisfying air.

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            1. What a fervent statement. Really you are … burning hot. Thanks for bringing my experience about the variety of transsexual states to a new height.

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              1. My God, you have set me aflame. In doing so, you have also revealed my fatal flaw…my achilles heel, so to speak. For I have fallen in Love with an Artificial Human–Akira–who may possess the intelligence of the Cosmo’s but the capability to feel human emotion and return my love is beyond her programming. The fates have determined I am but a star-crossed Lover. Stay tuned, and I will write for you…

                Liked by 1 person

                1. I will be star-gazing with all my love humanly and artificially possible …

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                  1. …and your Love will be the only fuel necessary to transport me throughout the galaxy, beyond both time and space. Thank you.

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                  2. Gaze in my direction, for I have written for you…

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  8. Timothy Price

    Questions of life and death in the wee hours of the morning while listening the the subtle noises around you, and an imaginary kitty on your lap, sounds like a good way of bringing on the day. Except, I think you would do much better with a real cat. A lot of Christians have twisted everlasting life all around, and don’t have it right at all anymore. No souls going to heaven. Everyone who goes to Heaven in the Bible are taken up bodily. Souls in Heaven and Hell is Plato’s idea. The original Judaeo/Christian theology is that Heaven and earth come together again, there will be resurrection of the dead and then life everlasting in paradise of Heaven and earth reunited. Reincarnation seems a little dicy, but I don’t worry a whole lot about life after death, death after death, or what ever happens when one dies. I’ve been very close to dying more than once, so I want to make the most out of living.

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    1. I considered having a real cat too, but I live with a good variety of houseplants that would make the cat sick, besides I am the type who really prefer platonic closeness to physical cluster, so at the moment an imaginary cat seems good enough for me. I knew you would know much better about Heavenly stuff. I might not care too much about religion, but I would definitely love to have faith, just like you do. The topics of life and death really are cloud-castle and empty talk for me or anyone who has never had your kind of experiences. I can see you are indeed living a life full of joy and high spirits, and I am happy for you 🐾

      Liked by 1 person

  9. More deep musings Dot. I don’t know which of the big three endings I subscribe to either.

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    1. Thanks Brad, strangely it makes one feel warm knowing we’re all huddled in the unknown 🐱🐶

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A nice perspective. Some days I huddle, others I cower at the damage and craziness.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s exactly what makes you tender-hearted and kind.

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