“Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds… Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.”
–Neil Gaiman, Sandman Vol 5 A Game of You
There’s a scene in Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War by Clive Barker (Abarat is a series that I read voraciously when I was younger but probably will never revisit because it will give me nightmares now) where the heroine gets harassed for the contents of her dreams. Not dreams like the ones that visit us in the night mind you, but our waking dreams that we may or may not share with anybody. And in that scene, all of the characters carry their dreams over their heads like little universes: there for all the world to see.
Some days I wish I could be so open. My dreams, or any part of my whole inner world, appear only when they slip out. Maybe the word I’m looking for here is not slip but ooze. I’ve been told that I’m carrying all the worst parts of myself on my sleeve—something I should have realized myself, long ago. It’s frustrating, because I know there is a shred of a kernel of me buried deep down that is as adamantine as diamond, as pure as Vajra fire, but it never sees the light of day. Instead, I am all sharp smiles and serrated edges; so full of complex longings that my horrors have hydra heads: for each habit I break three more spring in its wake.
The lighter I try to tread upon the world the more I sabotage. My thoughts are treacherous. They betray me: selfish things I should deny or put away because they are too sharp, and to run with them means someone always ends up losing an eye.
The best part of you is that you always try to help other people. A woman told me this when I was seventeen. She encouraged me to play the cello from this part of myself, so that my sound would always be pure and fulfilled. Oh, if she could hear me now. How mean and thin a line my bow makes against the strings.
It goes back to worlds again. I hurt people (inadvertently, on purpose, in small or big ways) when I’m being selfish. In Chinese the word for I (我) “wo” has a dagger inside it. The ancients avoided using it.
I am modern, and stupider than they. I am selfish and do not live for others. And when I do not consider the other as having his or her own complex, beautiful world inside of them with a myriad motivations and sensitivities, I sometimes find myself wanting to change people or cookie cutter them, both of which are profoundly stupid things in which I will never succeed. It’s hypocritical in the extreme to try to place people in boxes when one of my most firmly held beliefs is that there is always hope for change: that the malleable nature of humanity and the constant flux of the universe always mean becoming better is possible.
And really, the only times I ever feel hurt myself are when I’m being selfish. When I focus only on how the actions of another affect me rather than realize that, in the grand schemes of their lives and motivations, I count for very little at all.
I should offer understanding instead. I should know that in the collisions of the universe, things that look accidental have reasons behind them all. I should always try to do better myself. There is no one I can change but me.
After all, there is a world inside of me that I need to cultivate so that when it flourishes, all of those around me may reap the fruits.