I sat down recently to come up with some of the great distances in the known universe and think I have discovered the one that trumps them all.
Riding the elevator on Toronto’s CN Tower? Like falling off a log.
Leaping the chasm of the Grand Canyon? Pfft, nothing!
Swimming the Pacific Ocean? Like taking a bath.
Visiting the Oort Cloud at the edge of our solar system? A walk on a foggy day.
No, my friends, none of these is even close to the Greatest Distance in the Universe. That title goes to the space between the nib of a pen and the paper beneath it. I know this, because I have spent hours of my life watching people who cannot traverse this great gap.
The pen sits poised. Ink tantalizingly and agonizingly close to realizing its dream of spreading through the fibres of the paper. You can practically hear the Siren call of the note pad, seducing the ink to come join it in creative matrimony.
And yet, nothing.
The muscles of the hands tighten. The forearm presses harder into the table. The blood accelerates through the capillaries. Neurons in the brain fire in all directions. The spirit wails in unfulfilled lust.
And yet, nothing.
The gap is too large. The rewards uncertain. The risks too high.
Like a supportive father-to-be, I want to scream “Push!” and remind them to breathe.
Like a bicycle-training parent, I just want to nudge their hand to the paper and trail alongside it as it wends its way across the page, releasing just as it seems they have the hang of it.
Like a police psychologist, I just want to talk them down, let them know it will be okay.
But I am powerless in this process. This is something they have to do for themselves, much as I did for myself. When they are ready, they will write.
Until then, as a friend, I will stand with them at the edge of the abyss and imagine what is on the other side, awaiting them.