A Bigger Life
By Michael Gene Miller
Copyright © 1993
All rights reserved
The sun glistened on the sweat which was beading up on his brow. As the
stream ran down his wrinkled, flustered face, his expression seemed to
change...but it was only the twitching of his facial muscles trying in vain to
keep the salty taste of his exhaustion out of his mouth.
The towering pile of wood that stood in front of him seemed to proudly
gesture defiance toward that face, as if to say, "You will never conquer me,
you mere mortal of a man, you weak and fragile product of a nature which will
in time correct its mistakes and remove you from my presence." He could almost
hear the laughing voices of each log in the pile mocking his grunts and sighs
as he heaved his ax again and again and again, chopping an eternity of blows
as the sun touched the horizon with a heat that made the trees around it wavy
He stopped for a moment, standing his ax on its head and leaning on it,
finally wiping his forehead dry with his glove and looking up at the sky with
a stare as if to ask, "Where is this all leading me? What is my destination in
this life, if not to simply toil away the days and years of my time here only
to watch it all fade from my vision as I pass away on my way to God knows
where? I wish I knew that my life had worth and that something meaningful
comes from labor and sweat poured out in the pursuit of the creature comforts
that come therein."
He looked at the sun, just an orange sliver now, and picked up his ax to
strike a few more blows before dark, but before he raised it above his head he
sighed a long, slow breath, turned toward the house and began to feel once
again the presence of something that he could not quite explain. It was a
chill that shook him to the bone as he started his walk toward the back door
at a suprisingly quick pace. He had been feeling unusually drawn toward the
house all day without knowing why. No reason in particular...just a feeling.
The house seemed to be calling him to come and see something, seemed to beckon
to him suggestively, almost waving its arms and calling his name. Now that his
mind had released the woodpile, he felt compelled to answer and walked briskly
past the clothesline and up the steps through the screen door into the kitchen
with his ax still in his hands, just standing there as if the house were going
to speak, and perhaps tell him why he had been summoned. There was a long
silence.....then only the creaking of the floor as he shifted his weight to
the other foot.
He turned and walked back onto the porch. It was almost dark now and the
clouds were a bright color of purple. The sunset never changes, he thought to
himself; it comes every day, displays its new colors, and goes to sleep. Such
a simple existence with no real thought of things to come or the consequences
of actions taken in haste. He concluded that beauty is mostly a visual thing
and walked slowly back into the house.
The armchair called affectionately, but he knew he had more work to do
He looked around at the sparse furnishings and realized that he had very
little to show for his many years of hard work. Material possessions are
merely an expression of vanity and a manifestation of greed and ambition, he
reasoned, and besides, we are only here for a very short time on this earth,
and time is too valuable to waste on collecting decorations.
He washed his hands and made a mental list of things he needed to do
tomorrow, then sat down at the kitchen table to rest his feet for a minute.
His back was feeling the day-long swing of an ax, and his feet seemed to pound
and bulge within his boots. The day had been long, but he felt a real sense of
accomplishment, not because of the chores he had done, but because this day
had been one of reflection, of introspection and deep philosophical thought.
He had done a lot of serious thinking today about life and death, about his
purpose for being, and had mused long over the thoughts of his surroundings.
Tomorrow he would decide what he thought about it all, but for now he was just
It had gotten completely dark now, but he was still just sitting in the
kitchen blackness daydreaming about his youth. There was a time when he was on
top of the world and it seemed as though it would last forever. He was simply
a child at play, nothing more.
Life becomes complicated when it ages. The things he laughed at then are
the things that come the closest to making him cry now. He remembers how silly
the grown-ups all seemed, scurrying about their jobs with such a serious air
as though their very existence depended upon the pursuit of cash money. They
frowned eternally and scowled when crossed, as if they were venting their
frustrations at every opportunity. They preferred to be somewhere else,
anywhere else, doing something they enjoyed, something of their own choosing,
a hobby of their own design. They spent all their best hours toiling away
their energies for the sake of someone else's profits, harvesting a mere
pittance which would disappear as soon as they got it home. He played in the
streets they crossed. He slurped sodas as they told their stories across the
drug counter. He laughed at the comics in the rack as they commented over
their newspaper headlines about how the world was falling apart. His life was
so simple then, and problems belonged to other people; people who sometimes
seemed to chase after problems until they had a firm grasp on them.....it
seemed sad somehow.
Tossing his boots into the corner, he walked down the hallway toward the
living room. The air was warmer in there. He stood in the middle of the room
looking at it as if for the first time. It seemed foreign to him in light of
his revelations about the material world. It was filled with objects and
utensils, nothing more. Something was missing. There was a definite void, a
lack of something important. He wondered what it was.
He felt suddenly very hungry, and realized he had not eaten since
breakfast. Thinking of the dinner possibilities, he dismissed each one and
finally decided to eat later. The emptiness he felt was not in his stomach. It
was in his heart and soul that he longed for nourishment. He knew why his mind
had been so full of the world these past few days. It was because the world
was not enough. There was more to life than work and money and things bought
and packaged. He was feeling strong now, like a bright light had just come on,
like the great eternal answer was about to be revealed.
A peaceful smile came to his lips as he sank slowly into the overpadded
armchair and closed his eyes. This feels good, he thought to himself, and then
his eyes opened. That was the answer. Feeling good, being comfortable, liking
your life and who you are. Knowing that no matter what happens, you can find
comfort in your own goodness. Happiness is all you need, and happiness is as
easy as finding what pleases you and hanging on to it for dear life. The
secret to happiness is being easy to please.
He could feel the armchair wrap around him now and his mind turned to the
past again. He tried to think of the times when he had been the happiest. It
was when he had been in love. His eyes opened again, blinked a few times, then
closed for good. As his mind drifted, his thoughts blurring, he felt a warmth
come over him as he remembered all the love he had felt in his life, and he
knew he had his answer.
The smile of happiness was on his face.
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