Late Nights, Superman, and a Decade of Experience

Daniel Vanderkin Reflection Leave a Comment

In hindsight it all feels like the blink of an eye. Just a short blink ago we were spending entire summers together. Staying up way past our bedtimes fantasizing about the phantasmagoric world that awaited us just outside of our front yards while our parents had to repeatedly tell us to either go to bed or learn how to whisper. The voices you would create for the characters in our plots would set the cadence for the evening. A world of juxtaposition, abstraction, and brotherly bonding was taking place every night. Why wouldn’t we just go to sleep? It’s simple really. Dreams can only go so far. The world of dreams could not hope to grasp the world that was available to us when we shared an intimate space exploring the world as we knew it. There were no boundaries, no rules, and no judgment. The experiences we created were limited only by the expansiveness of our own imaginations and the decibel level enforced by our loving parents. Those long days and nights spent together showed us avenues of expression that were previously unknown to a travelers of our limited experience. Presently days are spent attempting to be an “adult” and to reflect on the world we created. Two tears are shed. One for the times that were… and one for the times that will never be. Ten years have passed and still the same questions persist. My beloved sister put it best, “Ten years later, and I can cry those same tears all over again.”

There’s something special about how you could pose a question…

“Uncle John, are you Superman?”

Superman… a thought-provoking title. Oh, how the definition has changed as the years roll by. Is he a “man” who is “super” compared to the clamoring throng? Is he inherently “super” and just so happens to maintain the physical appearance of a “man”? Is he a bird? Is he a plane? Or… Perhaps… he is actually the Supra-Man, the aforementioned man, the man whose time has been memorialized by his deeds and commemorated with the distinguished title of superiority. I remember us “Supermen” talking about growing to be “those old guys” in the neighborhood that would sit on their porches in their rockers and yell at all the “young whipper-snappers” that ran by our lawns. Nowadays it reminds me of the old man from The Plague, by Camus, whose day-to-day joy was spitting on the neighborhood cats that would loiter on his property. It was supposed to be us spitting on those cats, even though you would never have been able to spit on an animal with a heart like yours (except that one time with the opossum, but that can stay between us my friend).

We’ve grown up; what happened? Now we have jobs, taxes, bills, responsibilities, children… your cousins, nieces, and kin. In light of the world getting more “real” all around us, the surrealism is still ever-present. The surreal dualism that exists. Ten years ago it felt like the wind left the sails, the compass couldn’t find North, the guiding light had burned out, and there was an undertone of grey in what used to be such a colorful canvas. As the years creep by the sails have found the wind, the compass rediscovered North, the guiding light re-lit, and color came back to the canvas. Through all of this is the realization of how much of it is you. You didn’t take the wind from the sails with your actions. You borrowed the wind so that the internal wake of placid seas could be felt, only to return the wind when it was most needed.

What do I say to you? If we reconnected tomorrow, somehow saw each other at the grocery store, what would be said? Is there anything to say?

How I long to fill you in on the trials and tribulations of life. Experiences with: drugs, alcohol, friends, roommates, family, romance, religion, spirituality, farming, sales, marketing, and promoting relentless optimism… It’s like I’m 10 all over again and seeking the approval of my older brother. Would you think I’m “cool”?

As “those same tears” roll down the cheeks, it’s as if nothing has changed and yet everything is so different. Colin Hay put it excellently when stating, “…and still this emptiness persists, perhaps this is as good as it gets.” There’s so much power behind this line. “This” is as good as it gets and the emptiness will persist. Unwavering, it will work to swallow what you know to be true. That’s the challenge placed into our lives. Live alongside the emptiness, but still be in the moment. Realize that it never gets better than it is right now, at this exact moment (and I will happily debate that point with anyone who opposes).

If nothing else, after ten years two words still stay prevalent, “Thank You”, for all you’ve done and all you will ever do to promote the well-being of those around you. You are a true Superman.

(Photo Credit: Alpha Coders)