“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”
– Arthur C. Clarke
I grew up in Chicago. At the age of 13 I moved to my parents house in Iowa. My first night was sheer terror. Their house was remote. There were only three other houses nearby. The closest was two miles away.
My parents driveway alone was longer than most roads. Twisting through forests, rolling across hills, and running parallel to lakes it stretched on for an eternity. The feeling of isolation began to set in.
When night fell I learned just how alone I was. All across the landscape coyotes howled and barked. Even inside I could hear them. I’d never been in a situation like that before. Surrounded by darkness, emptiness, and the savage cries of predators. It was horrifying.
As time went on I adjusted to the emptiness. I read books, wrote constantly, and even began exploring my surroundings. One day while walking around in the woods I stumbled on a series of stones. They looked like someone had laid them there. I was perplexed. The stones were huge and it was obvious that someone had moved them, yet they sat in the middle of nowhere. It didn’t make any sense.
Later I learned that what I had found was once the foundation for an old church. Early pioneers had built a whole settlement. They had come from Scandinavia, English was their second language. The church had held all its services in Norwegian.
Not since my first night, surrounded by the howls of hunters, had I felt insignificant and alone. The settlers had built their little town and worshiped their little god, yet they were no more. Nature had reclaimed the landscape. Only a few faint clues alluded to them ever existing. Whatever they had done, whatever progress they had made, was all erased by time. It was an unsettling thought.
For a long time I thought those stones represented something. I thought they showcased how meaningless and futile everything is. Man can fight nature and his environment, but he’ll always lose. Some of the greatest empires in the world have vanished. Their only remnants are dilapidated ruins and legends.
Only recently did I realize that I’d been wrong. While the settlers didn’t have much left, they’d still left their mark. Almost two hundred year after they’d built their camp there was still evidence of its existence. Men who wrote books thousand of years ago are still being read. Art that was crudely drawn on walls is still being enjoyed and analyzed. Most of the things that man built have withstood the test of time. They’re indelible, living on forever.