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College VoicesLiving in the In-Between - by Andrew Allen
by College Voices
Sophomore-on-Hold, Brigham Young University
Everything, from every skyscraper to every pet tortoise, is made up of mostly empty space. At the smallest level possible, there is empty space between subatomic particles. At least, that's my admittedly limited understanding of the atomic model.
Space, exemplified at the tiniest level imaginable in this way, finds its way into our everyday lives. There are fleeting seconds and minutes that aren't what we plan out or remember, but that permeate our existence nonetheless. They exist: in the pauses between bites of food at a meal, in the moments spent drifting off in thought, in the shared silences of short car rides.
As you might be able to tell from my dramatic philosophical musings, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about the space between things lately. Looking inwards, I've realized that the pace we live at nowadays doesn't do much to direct our attention towards this space.
We move from task to task, trying to be as efficient and experience as much as we possibly can. If we could only cut the time doing this or that, we feel can eat, live, love, and accomplish so much more.
I suppose I live my life like this too. I get up and try to brush my teeth and get to work or do whatever else as quickly as possible. But in a strange way, I find myself living less inside the moments crammed inside a day, but rather in that ever-present space in between things.
I suppose some background is in order. I am eighteen years old, and I just completed my first year of school at BYU. I had an amazing time, learning as much as an eighteen-year-old boy can about life and things, but now I'm home.
While I was at school, President Thomas S. Monson's announcement lowering the missionary age changed my plans for the future dramatically. Rather than spend another year at school, I would serve a mission after my freshman year. However, some conflicts in schedules would lead to my mission coming a bit later than I'd expected.
Activities over the summer led me to delay my mission availability until September, long after the majority of my fellow BYU freshmen had entered the field. I suppose the flood of missionary applications to the Lord's inbox led my actual assignment date to be pushed back even further, as I report November 6 to the Brazil MTC (assigned to the São Paulo North mission).
As soon as I read my report date, my first thought was a rather selfish one: "What am I going to do with my life?" For the few weeks since, I've wondered this almost constantly. November is more than three months away, an eternity to somebody my age. I feel as if I'm trapped in that space between subatomic particles, or in the cracks of a sidewalk.
A gigantic step forwards in my life lies in front of me, far enough away that I can't touch it, but close enough that it casts a shadow over everything I do. I couldn't be more excited to serve a mission in Brazil, but the limbo that results from having to wait is a challenge.
As the days begin to blur, I find myself lethargic and lackluster, shrugging off conversation and activity of all sorts. After all, what's the point of starting much of anything, if I'll just have to leave it for two years? Any friends I make I'll soon leave, and any projects I undertake I'll likely leave unfinished. In the end, what's the point of doing a puzzle or reading a nice book if one day I'll die just like everybody else, cold and alone?
Of course, that's an exaggeration. This isn't how I should feel. I've been given a rare opportunity, for which I should be grateful. I get to enjoy a summer with family and friends while I prepare to serve the people of Brazil. I'm young, I have my life ahead of me, and I can touch my toes. If I lose sight of what's truly important, and how miniscule this time truly in the big picture of things, its easy to forget how wonderfully blessed I am.
But there are a lot of people who have lost sight, or have never had it to begin with. These people might truly think (as I so melodramatically wonder), "What's the point?"
These people inhabit the world all around us. Though their lives may have remained somewhat steady, they've lost their vigor and optimism. The turmoil and trouble of this life can leave people cynical, feeling hopeless or worse. Though we may not know it, the person next to us on the bus could feel as beaten down and lethargic as anyone else. As a line of one of my favorite hymns says, "In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can't see."
Though we can't fix all of society's ills, and can't make other people's challenges and obstacles disappear, a little bit goes a long way. At my lowest, it has been simple gestures from coworkers or family that have helped me remember the reality of my situation, and that I am not alone.
I think that the most that we can do, in those quiet spaces of the day, the fleeting moments I described, is think about the people who live in those spaces for every day of their lives, and about how we can help them.
Think about people to whom we can give our love and support, or even a smile. In giving people kindness and charity, we give them the only thing that can fill in the spaces: the love of Jesus Christ.
When we love as He would, we can fill the spaces in the heavy hearts around us, and pull people from the nothingness between moments, to live in the wonderful world that surrounds us day after day.
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