The box that says, ‘This is all there is’

Blank magazine spread w/ path

© Jon Helgason |

Where has the time gone, she said to herself, looking at the clock face with alarm. This was the hour it all had to happen, and yet here is nothing to show for it. And while she sat filled with alarm, the alarm went off.

“All right, class, set down your pencils and turn in your papers.”

The sheet of paper with her name and a few random scribbles was passed forward. Maybe in some alternate universe her scratchings would pass for esoteric profound poetry, but here in the real world it would be judged not enough.

“How’d you do with question 3?” asked a classmate.

She blinked in surprise. “There was more than one question?”

The mate looked at her with curiosity and sadness.

“Did your mind go blank again?”

“Not blank,” she said honestly. “Just somewhere else. Maybe this is not my life.”

“If not this life, what life would you have?” the classmate scolded. “This is all there is.”

“I think,” she said, “I think we build little boxes and crawl inside and tell ourselves, ‘This is all there is.’ But look how big the world is. The sky goes on forever, and the land stretches away so far and wide we could never see all of it or understand a fraction. Our little boxes are not all there is, not even close.”

“Why didn’t you write that down in the test?”

“The test didn’t ask the right question.”

“What would be the right question?”

“One where the answer lifts us out of the box,” she said. “Or even better, a question that does not concede the existence of a box. No boundaries, no limits, just the wildfire of imagination and seeing all of the possibilities of this day and this year and this lifetime. Time itself is a box, isn’t it? The clock is an invention. Throw away the clock, ignore the imaginary box, and serenity happens.”

The classmate shook her head.

“So you failed the test.”

“No. The test failed me.”