Race to the invisible finish line

By Michele Zirkle Marcum - Contributing Columnist

Editor’s Note: Listen to the podcast of this column.

Sometimes nothing makes sense.

I meet a personal goal and immediately feel the emptiness inside that yearns for another achievement. I choose another challenge, hoping to feel alive and in control of my life. As I push forward with a plan to triumph yet again, I can almost feel the reins slipping from my fingers.

Sometimes I feel like I’m dangling from a cloud by a piece of dental floss and all I can do is hold on while the world spins me in circles. For a moment I consider striving to gain momentum. Maybe enough to swing and perch myself on top of the cloud, but my view would remain the same — vehicles below zooming people from one activity to another like needles darting through a patchwork quilt.

My head swims with the clouds floating by. As I wonder where they are heading, a bit of jealousy crawls up my spine. The clouds don’t care where they are heading. The fluffy artwork is content to drift along trusting that the universe knows and that they don’t need to.

I’m coveting the clouds’ candor — their unapologetic existence — as it allows the current to direct their paths, trusting that they will know when to pour forth rain or how to rub against another cloud and create lightening.

I realize how silly it is to be jealous of clouds. I could stop analyzing my every move — stop thinking for a moment — if I wanted to. So, I try it. I watch the clouds who, with no qualms of their purpose, are content to do what comes naturally to them, and I try to have no ponderances of my own purpose, either.

A few seconds later, I catch myself wondering how long I’ve been cloud-watching. I wave the thought away and the next one and the next until I’m thinking how warm the sun feels on my face and how I have eternity to feel whatever I want to feel. I’m an eternal time-less being and I’m permitted — even prompted — by my very nature to stop thinking and enjoy being. I have no destination to hurry to. Death will let me know when to completely let go — to dissipate like a cloud into all that is — into the vastness of the unknown where no doubt I’ll have to remind myself to just enjoy my beingness.

As I dangle above the Earth, I see a bus full of students listening to their coach praise the last winning season, knowing they, too, must win to be worthy of such a victorious leader. Drivers speed toward meetings for more — more money, more land. Houses are full of people painting and polishing in an effort to impress their neighbors. Sidewalks are brimming with joggers running the extra mile to look like the model in the commercial.

As I’m wondering how to strive toward being more trusting in the randomness of life, a flock of birds fly near my cloud. The one in the back flutters over and suggests I join his crew who are dilly-dallying in the skies.

“But what use would that be?” I say. “Mustn’t my life have more purpose than that?”

“Why?” asks the bird.

“Mustn’t I have to help mankind? Look at them all, hurried and stressed from nose-diving through life like they are the ball in a pinball game.”

“How would you help them?” the bird says. “You hanging here and worrying about how to float through life like the clouds is as futile as your friends’ efforts on the ground. Everyone must cross the invisible finish-line at their own speed.”

I look down at the maze of corn fields and mountains beneath me. How silly and arrogant for me to assume that I know anything. The tapestry of land and of lakes and of humanity scurrying to and fro is a masterpiece of mayhem — one devised by a source more exquisite than the picture — than the Salvador Dali masterpiece sort of mess that I’m looking at.

I relax my grip and freefall into the palette of possibilities, content to let fate determine whether I plunge or putter across the invisible horizon.


By Michele Zirkle Marcum

Contributing Columnist

Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County and an author. Her column appears each Tuesday.

Michele Zirkle Marcum is a native of Meigs County and an author. Her column appears each Tuesday.