This question is an empty jar in the pantry of my mind. I could spend time contemplating where it came from, and sometimes this can be useful when trying to slip from thoughts that hold us tight – taking our brain through careful steps to say, ‘look, this jar came from way back then, and has nothing to do with now.’
Now, is today, this instant, the moment I’m writing this – and, I suppose for you, the moment you are reading it. My now is not your now. It will be useful, at some point in this process, once I have got the words down, to imagine you reading them, to ensure this post makes sense. In the meantime, I am simply writing.
Words are coming, one after the other, even though I know there is an empty jar in my mind labelled ‘What if there’s nothing there?’
The way I feel about this question right now, as I write, is different to the way I feel about it before my pencil hits the page. Now, there is a sense of flow, with a very quiet awareness of that jar in my pantry.
Before I write, there is no evidence that there is anything there, only the question and the discomfort it brings, this small clench in my heart, which creates an unwanted truth. The mind does not know the difference between what’s real and what’s imagined, and the body will take instruction from any question, flinching in the way an oyster does at the first squirt of lemon.
This is why is can be useful to have a little rummage in the pantry, to find out where this jar came from. I am seeing the large gymnasium at school at exam time, rows of desks laid out. We all reach to turn the question paper over. I am aware of the clock on the wall, ticking, the blank, lined paper in front of me, waiting for my brain to respond. ‘What if there is nothing there?’
I have carried this question through time, packed in my suitcase when I went to university, throughout jobs in London. I have taken it travelling with me. It was there the years I managed a retreat for writers in Shropshire. Now, it sits on a shelf in my pantry.
Here’s the thing. There is always a choice. I can see that jar and flinch, sensing how long I’ve been dragging it around, believing it to be real. Or, I can say, ‘I get it, you’re just there, like the cobweb in the doorframe that was a spider’s making once.’
I can choose to continue life as if the spider is forever weaving that web, or I can say: oh, this is not a question I am asking over and over, but the memory of a question asked one morning, and just like the web, how it has gathered dust, while the spider has crawled on.