There are mysterious forces at work in the universe, terrific forces that move us and shape our world, draw people together and pull others apart. They are forces we can feel, but can not see; forces we can measure, but can not trace back to a source. They are the black holes in the center of our galaxy that swallow all light and all substance, crushing planets and stars into a grain of sand that could balance on the end of a little boy’s finger. They are the Dark Energy that moves the chess pieces of the cosmos, sliding them from place to place like a giant chessboard of unseen and unknowable divine logic. Considering the greatness of these mysteries causes me to tremble in fear, even now, even as I write this, I am shriveled.
But there is one force that is more awe-inspiring, and more inscrutable than all of these. A force that the ancients have pondered from their birth to their death and have never even scratched the surface of understanding. A force I can barely bring my fingers type. And that is the force that leads my children on a pilgrimage through our home with a massive box of toys so they can dump it on the one clean area of the house, the very instant it has been decluttered.
This space could be a kitchen counter. You place the final dish in the sink and turn to admire your work and already Lydia will be sitting cross-legged on top of it with a paint set and watercolors. You open your mouth to speak, but she is already making a wide red stroke across a small white sheet of paper, and the ribbon of color reaches the limits of the page and keeps going, smearing over the edge, off into the oblivion where only art can survive and where you yourself now stand shivering in confusion.
This space could be a bedroom floor. You haul out the final bag of trash and come back, sweaty and worn out, but there on the floor is Gideon, and he has already overturned an entire tote full of Legos on the floor and he is smiling that flat smile, and his eyes are closed towards Heaven, and he is lying on his back making snow angels inside the rubble.
This space could be a long-forgotten corner of the garage. It is 3am and you are desperately trying to make one area clean. You want just one simple area of the house that is not covered in shrapnel and broken plywood from constant enemy bombardment. You want a single country that has peace, just to prove that it is possible, and so you clean out the corner of the garage. The next morning you wake up and find it has already been occupied with the piled machinery of Clara’s Snow Cone Stand Empire. “Thanks,” she says, walking past as you stare at it in dismay. “Don’t mention it,” you respond in a choked sort of voice.
It is impossible to avoid. It is inevitable. It is the nature of the universe. Entropy walks fast and comes on tiny feet.
Case in point, the other day my wife moved furniture in the dining room and diligently swept and mopped the floor. It was glorious. The sun glared in through the windows and the whole thing glowed for one beautiful minute on a summer afternoon. I helped her put the mop back into the closet under the stairs and a few minutes later I walked back into the kitchen. Gideon was already there, awkwardly squatting down on the floor in the narrow passage between the refrigerator and the dining room. His back was towards me and he was playing with something in front of him.
I sighed. “Gideon, what are you doing down there?”
He shrugged, “Just doing some things.”
“Right, right…” I shook my head, “But what?”
He shrugged again, “Just making some lunch.”
I paused a moment, trying to see around him. “Okay, lunch? Gideon, What are you talking about?”
He turned and smiled and then curled up sideways on the tile floor around a small pile of something brown and red. “I’m making pizza.”
I bowed over him and curled up my nose in disgust. “Wait, what?” Sure enough, he had opened a pizza Lunchable and had emptied its contents onto the floor. He was now delicately constructing a tiny pizza.
“Why are you doing that? Stop. Stop!” I shook my fist in the air and spun in a confused circle. “Why!? Are those… Gideon you have pepperoni and cheese scattered all over the floor!? That’s gross, dude.” My hands ran through my hair and I pressed my palms into my eyes. “auggghh…” my life was leaving my body. I could feel it squeezing out through the pores in my forehead.
The little boy laughed in a haughty sort of way, “Dad! It’s okay now. Don’t worry. Mom cleaned it. It’s good now. It’s a good place.”
“No!” I fell to my knees beside him, “It WAS a good place. Now it’s a pepperoni and cheese place. Gideon, you can’t eat off the floor. Nobody does that. We don’t do that. This is not the way…”
He picked up the little pizza and looked underneath it. “I don’t know… it looks fine, Dad.” he winked at me. “Mom cleaned it.”
“Mom cleaned it…” I echoed back, my voice sounded very far away. “Mom cleaned it…” I whispered from somewhere far away, out in the universe. dark energy swirled around me and it lifted my son in the air and he flung himself up the stairs holding the pizza like a flying saucer above his head.
It was a minute or two of steady breathing and of quiet meditation before I could finally stand up and stumble my way blindly to the table. As I did, my foot slid sideways and I fell into the chair with a loud thump. I looked down. My sock was covered in a smear of tomato sauce that had missed its mark during Gideon’s pizza construction. I stared at it, a red comet with a tail traveling up to my heel. I leaned closer and looked at it more closely. I folded in half and continued leaning even lower. I became a telescope, zooming in closer and closer to the sock and the sauce and the mysteries of the universe which they contained. The world bent around me in a wide arc and with every inch that I came closer the more the world stacked up above me and pressed me down, down, down into the murky micro space of the universe, the planet was crushed around me, the sun was sucked closer and closer, melting everything into a fiery boiling liquid and we were all folded into each other like taffy. No more house. No more yard. No more universe of swirling stars at night. Everything compacted down together into a grain of sand, all balanced on the end of a little boy’s finger.