Unimagined Possibilities

This new year will bring many changes to my life, though I have no idea what those changes will be. I will be leaving my father’s house, of course, but other than that, the future is blank. (Not bleak, just blank.)

The only thing I know is that I don’t want to settle down somewhere and stagnate. I realize that settling down does not necessarily bring stagnation, but in my case, I am afraid that entropy would win. (If you’re not familiar with entropy, my understanding is that entropy is the quantity of energy in a closed system that becomes disordered and unavailable to effect changes in the system, and so the system gradually degrades into chaos, or even worse, inertia.)

The fireworksreduction to inertia is not inevitable. Some of the disordered energy can be allowed to escape, which reduces the amount of entropy, and new energy can be introduced. The problem is that when one lives alone, it takes a lot of energy to introduce new energy to the system. It’s so much easier just to go with the flow, and if you have no one to disrupt the flow as you do when you are living with someone, the flow is toward a decrease in available energy. At least for me and other introverts. Extroverts by their nature increase the energy in a system. It’s what makes them extroverts. (The strange irony here seems to be that although introverts prefer to be alone, they need a shared life much more than extroverts.)

At the beginning of a settled life, I would do things, of course, but as time passed, I would become entrenched in my habits, would get tired of the same sights, the same errands, the same . . . everything. And my world would shrink and continue shrinking until I became the crazy cat lady sans cats.

Such a shrinking is natural. Bruce Chatwin understood our heritage as nomads and explained the necessity for keeping on the move, especially by foot. Chatwin wrote:

Some American brain specialists took encephalogram readings of travellers. They found that changes of scenery and awareness of the passage of seasons through the year stimulated the rhythms of the brain, contributing to a sense of well being and an active purpose in life. Monotonous surroundings and tedious regular activities wove patterns which produce fatigue, nervous disorders, apathy, self disgust and violent reactions.

Chatwin goes on to say: We should follow the Chinese poet Li Po in “the hardships of travel and the many branchings of the way”. For life is a journey through wilderness. This concept, universal to the point of banality, could not have survived unless it was biologically true. None of our revolutionary heroes is worth a thing until he has been on a good walk. Che Guevara spoke of the “nomadic phase” of the Cuban Revolution. Look what the Long March did for Mao Tse Tung, or Exodus for Moses.

I do not know if I have the physical capacity for walking long distances carrying a heavy pack. (Hmm. Maybe I could hire a Sherpa. Are there Sherpas for hire here in the USA?) I have no interest in being a revolutionary hero or a spiritual leader, but I do want, need . . . more. More than stagnation. More than simply enduring the coming years. More than any life I can imagine.

If in fact, we do live in the closed system of our lives, perhaps it is possible to poke holes in that system to let in more light. Perhaps it is possible to gently push back the boundaries of that system to allow for greater breadth or let new experiences create greater depth.

Perhaps it is possible to . . .

The thought of how that italicized sentence might end fuels my new year.

Wishing you a year of yet unimagined possibilities.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

5 Responses to “Unimagined Possibilities”

  1. Carol Says:

    Happy New Year to you, Pat!

    I think any portion of future time, whether it’s an hour, day, or year, is full of unimagined possibilities. The trick for me is to identify and recognize them! I like Alexander Graham Bell’s comment: “Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing that we see too late the one that is open.” Ha!

    You mention that a ‘settled life’ would cause you to be entrenched in your habits and to stagnate. I suppose it depends upon your definition of ‘settled’, but wouldn’t that only happen if you allowed it? A minor character in one of my earliest novels has a small apartment that is her home base… somewhere to store her possessions, and a place to which she returns when she needs the comfort or security of four walls. Whenever she desires to venture out, she does. Sometimes she takes on a job to earn money for her travels or her rent (which she pays for several months in advance), but they’re always short-term jobs. She wants to feel free to come and go on a whim, and, by her standards, she succeeds.

    There’s another book that I haven’t read yet, but intend to because I’ve visited both the Yukon and Alaska, and I love stories that take place in the North. Have you read or seen ‘Into the Wild’, by Jon Krakauer? I admire the protagonist’s adventurous spirit and determination if not his foolhardy lack of preparedness. I want to read the book to try and understand his state of mind. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14564827

    We’re only restricted by our limitations and a good many of them are self-imposed. I like the idea of “unimagined possibilities”, but as I’ve said, they’ll remain unknown and unattainable unless we actively seek them out.

    I’ve rambled on too long, but your comment struck a chord this time. 😉 My best to you in 2015. Here’s to achieving possibilities!


    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Carol, I like rambling comments, especially yours. You always give me a lot to think about. Others have also suggested a home base, but I’m not sure I could finance a nest and an adventure at the same time. It used to be possible to rent an inexpensive place, but there isn’t anything around here, at least not that I’ve found. It’s fun thinking about all this, though, no matter what I end up doing.

      I think older woman who find themselves alone seem so adventurous because the restrictions that were thrust on us or were self-imposed suddenly disappear.

      • Carol Says:

        That’s a good point… in retirement there are many commitments that have dropped away, and the things I’m involved with are of my own choosing. I still have a much-loved husband, of course, so I have no desire to pursue a totally different lifestyle, but that kind of adventure isn’t really in my nature anyway.

        Maybe an extended road trip in your van will be your first move during which you’ll have the time to decide where and if you want to ‘settle down’.

  2. Ree` Edwards Says:

    I loved both of your comments… very thought provoking.

  3. A Time of Preparation | Bertram's Blog Says:

    […] during those last days at my father’s house where I tried to imagine Unimagined Possibilities, I found myself with a new philosophy: Either Things Will Work Out Or They Won’t, which allowed […]

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