The Clearing 2011.12.7 Elysse Hurtado
On my way to Tokyo last night, I realized suddenly that, in the midst of a beautiful sunset, I could see the peak of Mt. Fuji
standing proudly on the horizon. Now, it's not my first time seeing Mt. Fuji (oh no, after spending 12 hours climbing up and down
her majestic peak we are quite intimately acquainted, thank you), but it was my first time seeing her from several
hundreds of miles away, overshadowing the city whose smog usually obscures her completely from view.
Needless to say, it was quite breathtaking, despite the occasional road sign blinking past as the bus raced over the highways to
reach my favorite city. They always say that on a clear day you can see Mt. Fuji from Tokyo Tower,
something I have yet to achieve because it always seems to be smoggy when I go; but being able to see her from Ibaraki
is something else entirely.
Realizing that this natural giant is constantly watching over our frenzied society is slightly calming for me. It helps to put things
in perspective, both literally and figuratively. No matter how tall Tokyo's tallest building is, it will never be as impressively massive as Mt. Fuji.
No matter how complicated our lives may become, she stands as a constant reminder of the simple basics from which
we originated and can return to at any time.
In the same way, as I pedaled my bicycle home from the train station at the chilly hour of midnight that same evening,
I suddenly became aware of the brightness and proximity of the stars overhead. Once again, living in a
city means adapting to a certain amount of light pollution, and there are not many days when you can enjoy a full,
unobstructed view of the night sky. Which means that, when they do come into view, I tend to become bewitched by the stars,
to the point I stop what I am doing just to stand in place and twist my neck this way and that to get a better view of the
suddenly revealed heavens.
As I mentally plotted the constellations, reveling in the clarity and luminosity of the Big Dipper and Orion, I finally understood
that platitude people use to describe the comfort the stars give them. Up until that moment,
every time I heard `looking at the stars makes you feel better about your own problems because it reminds you how trivial we are
compared to the universe' it always rubbed me the wrong way. When I'm feeling down, the last thing I want to be confronted with
is the concept of my insignificance and worthlessness. It always seemed so antithetical to the encouragement everyone professed to obtain,
and that dichotomy just increased my confusion and irritation.
But last night I found myself understanding that maxim, albeit in a slightly different vein. Rather than feeling inconsequential and
insubstantial, gazing up at the vagrant, lonely stars and planets I felt empowered. Out of all the stars and planets we can see,
ours is the only one we know of with life at all, let alone complicated life like ours. We, out of all possible worlds,
were lucky enough to progress to self-awareness and society, and can now reflect on the world around us with greater
autonomy than ever thought possible. We have so much to be thankful for.
And so much more we can achieve, if we believe in ourselves. It has always been my nature to view things as very black and white,
despite the constant knowledge of the gray-scale world we live in, and so it is occasions like these that help ease my
all-or-nothing philosophy a little bit. Seeing things from a different perspective, re-acknowledging to the presence of things around us
that are usually hidden from view by obstructions caused by our own short-sightedness or self-absorption, that is what re-aligns
the baseline and brings us back to earth. After all, it's very hard to move forward without a solid foothold to push off of.
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