My mind is swimming from another day of lectures, standardized tests, and “intellectual conversations” about the latest moral issues. I can’t help thinking, "The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know." With this frustration threatening to overcome me, I decide to call it a day. I put my computer to sleep, I tell my phone when to wake up, and I tuck in my ipod. Now it’s my turn. A candle burns contently on my nightstand, waiting for me to drain the last bit of electricity from my room. I flip the light switch, and a veil covers my eyes. The shadows in my room dance with the solitary flame, and the autumn breeze from a cracked window keeps the tempo. I strain to see the world outside the glass, but my own dark reflection glares back at me, guarding me from what could be. My ideas and questions are confined to this dim cave. I have been here before.
The familiar surroundings force me to focus my thoughts inward, on everything I have learned that I don’t understand. But suddenly, and without any thought of me, a strong wind comes through the window and rips through my reality. My candle is betrayed; its will wavers, it dims, and then dies out forever. I stand in oblivion, devoid of sight. I am at first deeply distressed. My world is gone. Where before I had the comfort of a prison cell, I now have nothing, and I suddenly long for what I know. My mind tries to create a mental picture, but I have no point of reference: no pictures, no computer, no desk, no reflection of myself on the window. Do I still exist? Descartes rings in my head with a resounding ‘yes,’ but somehow that’s not good enough.
Something changes. All at once, I am returned to the physical universe. First, I hear the wind howl again; only this time it seems deafening. This freight train grabs the smell of the smoking wick and pulls it toward me. I take it in. Within moments, I hear an orchestra of crickets, cars, dogs, creaks, and numerous other happenings in the vast world around me. I even see the outline of what I know to be a tree on the other side of my window. I am freed from my cage of certainty, but I am not afraid. My thoughts are allowed to drift and reshape with the wind. I am open to life’s suggestion, in all of its complexity; but somehow, it seems simpler than I thought it could be. I slip across my room using the objects I know are there. At my bed, I realize how soft and forgiving my mattress is, and how welcoming my blankets are. I wonder why, but not for long. The unknown fades, and what I do know seems so much richer. My mind stops swimming and decides to drift.