Every day we make decisions based on where we want to end up in life, based on where we want to go in the spacetime continuum. Unfortunately, for most of us, there’s a huge gap between where we want to go, and where we actually are. Oftentimes, that gap is due to things we can’t control. Whether it be race, money, gender, sexual orientation, laws, physics, or country of birth. But some things we can control, and our minds are the biggest barrier to achieving the things we truly want. The gap between what we think and what we say is directly related to the gap between what we want and what we have. I like to think of this from a 5th-dimensional perspective because it really highlights how different both our lives and the world at large can differ depending on our actions. Below are three allegories that analyze the difference between where we are and where we want to be, and what lies between us. In all three stories, a better life is only a few words away.
Jovany was always the first to arrive in class. He usually used the spare time to read the news on his phone. He sat at the front, next to the professor. Jovany never made casual conversation with her, a decision he would later regret. He was a communications major in a journalism class, and he knew that networking would have been a wise choice. “Ms. Chantain is so busy, I mean, she’s an actual journalist. Between her job and teaching classes, she probably doesn’t have time to chat.” Jovany was an introvert and often made excuses to avoid socializing. “I don’t think I’m gonna stick to this major anyways, I’m thinking about switching over to art.”
Jovany was a people watcher. He eyeballed his classmates as they arrived, usually making comments to himself about their appearance. “That’s Meghan, she looks like a bookworm for sure. I swear she dresses like she’s Amish or something,” he says as he giggles to himself. “Oh and here comes David. He’s not gonna last too long, dude always comes in high.” A few more students shuffle into the classroom. Then comes Farah. Short, petite, dark-skinned, long straightened hair, and green eyes. She was always disheveled and disorganized like she had just gotten outta bed. She usually wore baggy clothes and a sweater that was a few sizes too big. Jovany was smitten.
After class, he waited for everyone to leave before taking off. Jovany had such a huge crush on Farah, that he wanted to hide that he was interested in her at all. She took the same route as him to the parking garage. “I don’t want to seem like a creep…I should take a different route to my car.” Jovany did anything he could to look indifferent to her existence. He spent the entire semester avoiding what could have been the love of his life. “She probably has a boyfriend...she’s not my type...I’ve gotta get home and study…I don’t want to be in a relationship right now...”
A few years down the line, Jovany is stocking the shelves at a Publix supermarket. He was listening to the news on his IPhone. A story comes on about a scandal involving some local politicians. “Juicy stuff…” he thinks to himself. Hearing a familiar voice narrating the story, Jovany pulls out his phone, and his face turns white. He only recognized her because her name flashed on the bottom of the screen, Farah Leroux; Junior Correspondent. “She made it,” he thought. The once messy young student somehow landed a job at Channel 7 News, where his professor, Ms. Chantain, had previously worked. “She must’ve gotten a gig through the professor”, he thought. Feelings of regret and self-loathing swirled around in his mind. Only a hop and a skip through the spacetime continuum, Jovany had the life he wanted. The life where he spoke up for himself and chased the things that mattered to him. A beautiful girl, a career he loved, and most of all, happiness. Jovany shut off his iPhone, and quietly went back to work.
“Lonzo! What up!” Alonzo turned off his lawnmower as Jay, his childhood friend, walked up to his driveway. “What’s good Jason?” The two casually shook hands. Despite knowing Jason since Kindergarten, Alonzo was itching to drop Jay as a friend. “Man, why am I still friends with you”, Alonzo thought, “You’re only gonna get me in trouble”. “Lonzo…I need a favor”. Jason was always asking for favors. “I need a ride to the store, I’ll shoot you some gas money”. Alonzo quietly reevaluated their friendship. He and Jay both lived the street life as teenagers, but Alonzo changed his tune, going to college, while Jason still hung out with the same thugs from the neighborhood. “The only reason we’re still friends is cause you live a few houses down...I shouldn’t hang with people like you anymore”. “So what up Lonzo? We gonna ride or what?” Alonzo snapped out of it. “No, don’t do it,” he thought to himself. “...Yeah man, let’s ride.”
As the two get in Alonzo’s car, Jay pulls out a joint from his pocket and begins to light it. Alonzo cuts him off and the two have an exchange.
“Nah man, there’s no smoking in here.”
“C’mon Lonzo! It’s just some weed! It’s legal!”
“Smoking and driving ain’t legal, plus I don’t want the smell to stick around.”
“Damn so you a goody-two-shoes now, huh?”
“You’re damn right I’m a goody-two-shoes! I’m a UCLA alumnus now! Double major in Child Education and African Studies! I’m joining the Peace Corps bro! I know we used to run shit back in the day, but I’m trying to give back! I’m trying to make up for what I’ve done! What are you doing? Still hanging with the same fools that are only gonna get you locked up?”
“Lock me up? Man, I run too fast, they ain’t gonna catch me....Hold up? You said the Peace Corps? You never told me about that. What you gonna do in the Peace Corps?”
“I’m gonna be a teacher man, in West Africa. Probably Ghana. The Motherland needs me bro.”
“Man we need you! Haven’t you looked around? All these people sleeping in the street! Skid Row, Venice Beach, Downtown. You need to help us out too, brah!”
“Agreed, but real change starts from the bottom man, and Africa is the bottom of the world.”
They were quiet for the rest of the drive. Alonzo was nervous. “I shouldn’t be giving him a ride, I just remembered Jay’s been running with some really rough dudes recently. After this, I’m cutting him off.” They pull up to the corner store, and Alonzo feels like throwing up. He’s come this far, and he has the strange feeling that he might be in serious danger by giving Jay a ride. “Actually, I should have cut him off a long time ago.”
“Aight Lonzo, I just gotta grab some eggs and milk for the fam. I’ll be like 10 minutes G.”
“Cool.” Alonzo waited in the car, trying to reassure himself. “He’s just getting food for his family. He’s not doing anything sketchy.” Alonzo sees a black SUV drive by slowly, and park a few meters behind him. “Shit.” Realizing that Jay may in fact be doing something incredibly illegal, Alonzo resists the urge to speed away, gripping onto the last bit of faith he has in his childhood friend, but Alonzo panics and has a change of heart. “I can’t be involved in this...”
Alonzo throws the car in drive and slams the gas. Just as he makes his escape, the street swarms with police, blocking him in. The police draw their guns. “LAPD! PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!” Alonzo, trembling in fear, complies. “I knew it…”
Jay was selling heroin to the owners of the corner store, the police had been watching him for months. Since Alonzo gave him a ride, he was looking at some serious time. Luckily, since he wasn’t the dealer, he was doing less time than Jay, though it was still a few years in the state penitentiary.
“After all that hard work...This is what I get for staying silent…This is my life now...”
Like Jovany, Alonzo’s trajectory through the vastness of spacetime had been drastically altered. If we take a short walk through the 5th dimension, we find Alonzo teaching young Ghanian children mathematics and history. An Alonzo who spoke up for himself, and was making the world a better place.
The Sugar Rush
Dr. Cavendish was known for his sweet tooth. His coffee was more cream and sugar than actual coffee, and he always had pastries on his desk. He’d been teaching history at Oxford for 15 years, and before that, he had spent 10 years in the States studying at Yale. His colleagues often joked that he ate like an American.
Lisa Wilmott was one of Dr. Cavendish’s grad students. Cavendish was researching the demographics of the Roman Empire, often spending hours deciphering ancient manuscripts. Lisa would stay late in his office helping him with his research. They usually drank coffee and ate pastries to keep them going late into the night.
Lisa eats a biscuit as Dr. Cavendish breaks down Roman London’s cultural history, “As it turns out, London was founded as a multicultural city, meant to be a trading hub for Roman Britain. Merchants came from Egypt, Nubia, Anatolia, Galicia, Italia, Hispania, all kinds of people traveled here to trade with the local Celts and Britons. It was quite the melting pot, just like today!”
The Doctor grabs a tart.
“Really?” Lisa exclaims, “I never would have thought! You know Doc, that’s your 5th pastry, you ought to slow down yeah?” Dr. Cavendish takes a sip of his coffee. “I need the energy, my dear.”
Dr. Cavendish walks home from his office later that evening. “I know I need to get my health in order. I’m 45 now, I need to start looking after myself.” His legs grew numb while walking, growing more intense with every step. “What’s going on? This is such a short walk, I do this every day! Am I just getting old?”
The next evening, Dr. Cavendish and Lisa sat in the office reading Celt manuscripts. The Doctor started to feel faint, and his vision went blurry. “Can you pass me another honey bun, dear?” Lisa is reluctant to give him one. “Why don’t you eat an apple or something instead Doc?” Dr. Cavendish thinks about what happened last night. ”I should listen to you, shouldn’t I? But I don’t want to run down to the store after yesterday’s episode.” “Actually Lisa, my doctor says that I'm good for it!” Believing the lie, Lisa passes the honey bun. “Although, I really should pay my doctor a visit…”
“I can’t let this go on any longer.” Cavendish thinks as he walks home. “I’ve got to eat better, and take better care of myself.” His legs were going numb again, and his vision was blurring. Dr. Cavendish chalked up his symptoms to the hours he spent on his research. “On second thought, I think I’ve been working too hard. I should take it easy the next few days and stay out of the office. You know, just relax.”
The next morning, Dr. Cavendish grabbed a coffee on the way to the University. He figured he would hang out at Port Meadow and watch the birds fly by. “I should really ease up on the sugar,” he thought, “but I absolutely hate the taste of black coffee.” He filled his cup halfway with cream and sugar as usual, and filled the rest with coffee. He took a sip, delighted by the sweet thickness of his espresso.
While walking to the meadow, the Doctor’s vision went blurry, then he went blind. His legs went numb, and buckled under his weight, losing consciousness and collapsing on the ground. Onlookers ran to his aid, and someone called an ambulance.
Dr. Cavendish awoke to darkness. His eyes were wrapped. He could tell that he was in a hospital, he heard the faint beeping of medical equipment and felt the IV in his right arm.
“Good afternoon Charley.” Nobody had called him by his first name in ages. “My name is Dr. Robinson. Let’s get straight to the point. You had a diabetic attack. Your blood sugar was extraordinarily high. We gave you insulin to help absorb the sugar.”
“Great...” mumbles Cavendish. Dr. Robinson sighed. “Not great Charley. The sustained sugar levels did permanent damage to the nerves and blood vessels in your legs. I’m sorry Charley, but we’re going to have to amputate.”
Dr. Cavendish went blank in disbelief.
“Your eyes took a hit as well. While we were able to save you from complete blindness, your vision is severely impaired.”
Dr. Robinson took a deep breath. “I’m terribly sorry Charley. I heard you’re a distinguished professor at Oxford, and I wish we could’ve done more. Do you want me to make any arrangements for your loved ones or associates?”
“Please, just give me some time alone,” Cavendish asked.
“As you wish Charley…”
“As it turns out, I’ve destroyed myself...I should have listened to my body...”
Like Jovany and Alonzo, Dr. Cavendish now lives in a region of spacetime where he’s a prisoner to his inaction. A few steps away in the 5th dimension, Dr. Cavendish and Lisa are taking a walk through Oxford’s courtyards, eating fruit and discussing the history of the British Isles, while a flock of birds flies overhead.