I believe in the vast darkness of the unknown. I do not believe in it because I have some affinity for fear or worry, I believe in the unknown for its infinite space of possibility.
When faced with the unknown I realize that I am not alone in my experience. So instead of cowering from the unknowable future or claiming defeat before a task is begun, I quiet my mind and remember others who have also faced the indefinite space before them.
I think of Pablo Picasso standing before the white emptiness of a canvas, his brushes and an empty pallet beside him. Within moments, possessed by an image or a color he would begin to create. The whiteness was transformed. It became his perspective of the crying woman or the matador.
Picasso brought his vision out of the unknown and into existence for humanity to see and when the canvas was conquered, he did not stop. He faced the unformed clay and fashioned ceramic bowls or vases, or assembled objects, discarded and disconnected, and brought them back to life as sculptures in the round or as collages on walls. Picasso conquered the vast unknown by filling it with art.
I also think of the ancient builders who stood upon a barren plateau, a sand swept desert or the twisted overgrown fecundity of a rainforest. Each location devoid of civilization would have appeared before them as an interminable space besieged by the elements. The scorching sun of the desert, the rising winds of high altitudes, or a seemingly ceaseless tropical rain would not obstruct their ability to imagine the soaring structures they had been entrusted to construct.
Instead of turning away from an uninhabitable space, they built upon a cloud laden mountain of Peru the Inca city of Machu Picchu. Upon the hot sands of the Egyptian desert they would build the Great Pyramid of Giza, the tallest structure known to mankind for nearly 3,800 years. Finally, rising up to the sky through the dense forest trees they would erect the Great Plaza of Tikal deep in a lowland forest of Guatemala. Conquering the vast unknown through their sweat and strength they gave birth to the architectural monuments of new civilizations whose structures defy the passage of time.
Then I think of this white page upon which these words appear. So many other writers have faced this same vast blankness. Like the poet Walt Whitman sitting in his bedroom in the final year of his life. Surrounded by page upon page of blank sheets and unfinished works he was still undaunted, still determined to record life. He was so determined his room was like an ocean of words waiting at his command, knowing the shadow of death would soon fall upon him.
If these great pioneers could create within that infinite space of possibility, then guided by the path they forged before me, I am certain I too can conquer the unknown.
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