Life in the Box

Where do you live?

Your street address, city, country, latitude, longitude, altitude help pinpoint your unique space, defining it in a neat three-dimensional way. You, and only you, are in the space you occupy at this moment. But you will and must move on and that space will belong to another. As your world shifts, new scenes appear; old scenes reveal new features.

Inextricably related to the three dimensional world of the moment is another dimension—one of time. Gradually we realize the relative nature of time as we travel through it. It is a spotlight that has passed through the ages and illuminated those who have preceded us. The spotlight relentlessly moves on and will soon play on others yet unborn. We, like those before us, will become part of the background, the shadows upon which the present is projected. Autumn thoughts.

As I walk along a creek reflecting on these thoughts, I see things with fresh eyes. A sycamore tree stands tall on the bank. Its length, depth, breadth is far greater than mine and its future promises a longer time in the spotlight. But more does not seem better. I prefer my mobile limitations.

A tangle of berry vines builds upon itself, shading last year’s growth. The low leaves, eclipsed by the new, drop to become the earth from which new vines erupt. Animals live, propagate, die; moisture evaporates, condenses, falls. Nothing is lost; everything is altered.

The path dips down to the water. The chill fall air lingering in this dale makes me shiver. From a branch an insect chrysalis hangs, winter insulation. Leaves have turned red and gold and brown. Seedpods litter the ground waiting for the cold damp winter and warm spring to expand their tiny treasures.

I become conscious of yet another dimension—the dimension of temperature. When temperate weather reigns, there is little that calls attention to the limitations imposed by heat or cold. But with this temperature drop, I become aware of the narrow life zone within which I must reside. Few are the plants or animals with such a small temperature window. But once again, I will take my limitations.

These constraints of length, width, depth, time, and temperature define not just human life, not just life alone, but all existence—rocks as well as trees, comets as well as dinosaurs, air as well as oceans. Every minute, every second, everything resides within the changing boundaries imposed by these unfailing five. Never again will anything be exactly the same.

I live in a box that is my space, my time, my temperature, my address. If I try to step outside it, I will find the impossible is just that. Does this shifting, multidimensional box provide a haven, a safe harbor, a home for viewing the rest of the universe, or is it a barrier to struggle against until I am defeated? I am willing to accept its limitations. Life is where I live.