When I Defied Physics
There was a time when I was the centre of the universe. Even though I lived on the Earth, it revolved around me, much like it now revolves around the sun. And the sun, too, orbited the celestial body known as I, as did the rest of the solar system, the galaxy which contained it, and the cluster of galaxies of which the Milky Way was only one insignificant speck.
I owned the Earth. I lived on it, and it belonged to me.
I lived in a house.
Not everybody is that fortunate.
The house was old, and draughty, and parts of it leaked. But it was a place with walls, and stairs, and a roof. It had a bathroom, and bedrooms, and old cupboards with creaky doors. There are worse places to be a child.
When I was little—and was the centre of the universe—reality did not apply to me. The rest of the world existed, yes, but at the same time, I was creating it.
I made the trees and the fields; sometimes I made them in other worlds, too. Trees and fields exist everywhere, so it wasn’t a huge stretch of the imagination to create them in worlds only dreamed of, or those glimpsed amongst the words of books about girls with necklaces of raindrops and boys with giant peaches.
I made the sky, and the stars which twinkled within it, but my favourite things to make were the clouds. Some I made white and wispy, others I formed heavy and grey. The sky was my canvas, and the clouds my paint. I made horses up there, and rabbits, and sharks, myriad creatures to fill the empty void above me.
I made people, too. I made them all to be Good and Kind; my mother’s warnings of what to do if I was ever separated from her (find a lady who has children and tell her you are lost) and the our address which she made me repeat until I had it memorised, were nothing more than a fairy story and a nursery rhyme. For what bad thing could ever happen to a child who had created all of the people in the world to be as Good as themselves?
Reality did not apply to me, but sometimes it was inconvenient. Though I had created the sky, I couldn’t stop it from raining, so I made the most of the situation by enjoying the wonderful shows of light and sound that the sky was orchestrating just for me. And when the symphony stopped and the rain persisted, I went away in my head to other worlds where it wasn’t raining.
I had companions in those worlds. Dolls and cars and teddy bears. They came with me, and together we explored these strange new lands, roaming from bedroom wall to bedroom wall, traversing the thin blue carpet, scaling the impassable mountain of the bunk-beds and toy-boxes.
Then, a terrible thing happened to me.
I started to get older.
As I aged, it became harder and harder to ignore reality. The News didn’t help, telling stories of War, and of Death, and of children murdered by children. Suddenly, some of the people I had created broke away from my control. They were no longer Good and Kind, but cruel, and mean, and greedy.
The revelation came as a shock, but further atrocities occurred soon after.
The world on which I lived stopped revolving around me. The centre of the universe was no longer wherever I happened to be. The care and attention that had been lavished on me began to diminish and, with horror, I realised that there were certain Expectations I had to meet. Foremost, I had to be able to take care of myself.
Reality made its ugly presence known in other ways, some more subtle than others. As I grew, becoming taller, increasing in mass, the harsh mistress known as Gravity increased her hold on me. When I fell, it hurt more.
So I tried not to fall.
I had to give up the worlds I had created. There comes a time in every child’s life when they are (one way or another) forced to give up the very things which kept them young; things like dolls and cars and teddy bears. These things which had once shared my place at the centre of the universe were scattered into the wind, like fluffy white dandelion seeds on a summer breeze, pieces of my childhood littering the proverbial highway, visible only in my rear-view mirror.
Now that I was no longer at the centre of the universe, and bereft of the tools I had used to create fields and trees and clouds and worlds and all the Good People that should have inhabited those lands, I grew increasingly angry. At the time, I did not know why.
I was not aware of Jung’s concept of Individuation. And even if I had known about it, I would not have understood it.
I spent a lot of time being angry, and almost as much time listening to The Sex Pistols, and I also spent a lot of time drinking, which helped, because when I drank a lot, it seemed to bring the universe back into focus. For a short while, I was the centre of everything again. The world did not pass me by; it moved with me as I travelled through it.
As happens with alcohol, I often fell. And gravity hurt me. Reality’s way of reminding me that even when I was the centre of everything, I was not untouchable. It would catch up with me, a tortoise plodding after the hare, and twenty four hours later I would feel the pain of my falls.
Eventually, I learnt my lessons, and as I became a little wiser, I found my way back to being a creator. To being the little God I had been during my formative years.
I began to write.
At first, the need to be creative manifested as poetry; grey, maudlin rhyme about how bleak and dull everything was. But slowly, little by little, colour began to creep back in. The poetry phase passed (mostly) and I began to create worlds again.
I had no toys to help me this time, because adults aren’t supposed to play with toys (unless they’re a certain kind of toy, but that’s a mental image for another day), so I did the next best thing; I wrote imaginary people in imaginary worlds. And as much as I wanted to make all those people Good, I knew that it couldn’t be so, for such a world would be a pale reflection of reality, and despite all the tragedy which stems from it, that subjective illusionary concept we call ‘evil’ is a bitter necessity. Without poverty, and greed, and murder, and war, and torture, and death, we would have no reason to strive to improve ourselves.
So I wrote these things into my worlds, loving and hating myself for being so honest and giving reality its due.
For a long time, I struggled to understand why I wrote stories. At first I thought it was because I was a Genius, but I soon outgrew my hubris. Then I thought that I wrote because of an overwhelming desire to entertain and amuse people. It could very well be partially true, but it wasn’t the entire reason. Finally, I settled on something that seemed more poetic. I wrote because I was driven to do so. Because I was cursed with an overactive imagination and a wicked creative streak, and if I didn’t write, I would go crazy. I dutifully wrote down the stories which fell into my head to keep myself sane.
For many years, that reason and logic sufficed. But I can remember the precise moment that I realised my folly. I can remember clearly the instant when I realised exactly why I write.
It was two day ago, as I was driving my newly-fixed car home from the garage.
It was warm, sunny and dry. A beautiful day (especially for here, in May).
I drove past a group of children on their way home from school. They were laughing, and joking, and enjoying the fine weather. And I realised, then, that each one of them was the centre of the universe. This world I was driving my car (which was as old as most of those children) through, was their world. They were making it, as I had once made it.
They were creating me.
This, I now realise, is why I write. Because my turn at creating the Earth is over. The task now falls to the next generation, to make of this world what they will.
But I can still create things. By writing, I am looking to take myself back. Back to that time when I made the world, and everything in it. Each time I pick up a pen, or open my computer’s word-processor, I am travelling further and further back into my own past. I am trying to cast off the false illusions of this world which have been forced on me, and become as I was in the instant I was conceived; a dream. An idea. Hope.
I am trying to make myself and the world in which I live, both tabula and rasa. I am trying to go back to the childhood that is inaccessible to me in every way except memory.
Sitting here, with my curtains closed, living in my own little pool of light, oblivious to the world which is being created around me, I am trying to go back to the time when, as the centre of the whole universe, I defied physics.