My contact was a man everyone seemed to report to. It felt awfully comforting to find we finished from the same Uni. We even shared jokes about being broke, local food, women, student habits, etc. We pranced about like dignitaries, barging into offices for introduction. The fairytale was effectively over when he said “time to meet my boss”. Much as he tried to mask it, the reverence was audible. It all felt different in that moment.
In a flash, we were in a perfectly still room – before the boss. Even thunder would have stammered in that soberness. He was obviously not a man to be messed with. He spared less than a millionth of his attention as I muttered my name. “That means ‘female teacher’ in my language”, he said, without even looking up. It didn’t take much to be reminded of my place. “You don’t have to like the boss; only pray God he likes you”. That thought shortened a smile’s path to my face. Anyone could tell it was a dud; still, I wore it until distance covered my face.
He was the boss, but that was many months ago. Now, everything had changed – though it all seemed the same. I still called him ‘sir’; he hadn’t grown any shorter, nor had his name changed. Yet, something was different – the boss had resigned! And, what he meant was “Soon we (non-staff) would play you (current staff)”.
I sat there, soaked deep in sweat and thought, marveling at the power of change. Nothing, yet everything, had changed. His office space was now someone else’s. ‘Work’, as he knew it, was no longer the same. He would now have to interact with an entirely different set people everyday. And all this was made possible by what? A simple letter – a common ‘nothing’ that changed hands.
Nothing changes; yet nothing stays the same. Imagine seeing a newborn with eyes the same size as yours. As that mischievous smile wears off your face, pause at this reality: the eyes don’t grow. Doctors say we were born with (about) the same size of eyes we carry around today. Nothing changes – yet we can swear it’s not the same. Do the eyelids widen as we grow? Maybe! A woman carries all her eggs from the day she’s born. So, asides a few fluids flowing stronger and faster, ‘nothing’ changes at puberty. Why then does it feel so different? If nothing really changes, why is the world never the same between two blinks? How can we sanely say “nothing changes” and believe it?
In July of 2000, a tiny piece of metal – a mere ‘nothing’ – lay quietly on a French airstrip. Looking back now, we know it caused that crash – and the 113+1 deaths. How could the world have known that a useless scrap would be the door to mighty Concorde’s extinction? The Concorde itself never changed; neither did the world. If you visited the crash site today, you probably won’t see a sign of the horror. So, effectively, nothing changed; yet, it all feels different today.
The world today is definitely not as it was at creation. Something –in fact, everything – has changed! If nothing else, at least we know time didn’t stay still. But what is time? A winter jacket remains the same; what determines its use is the weather. Coffee may never lose its taste. Yet, at a certain time of the day, it drops off the menu. What changes? Time – the most important of all nothings! We may think of time as the ever-moving balance of relevance.
Even if everything stays the same, this balance cannot. It shifts – and, with it, everything else. After the Concorde’s horrifying crash, the pivot of awareness shifted – and its risks outweighed everything else in relevance. Obviously, those risks were there from the start. What that incident changed was perception. Perception, being the ‘nothing’ that can become everything – thicker than Jericho’s walls, yet thinner than the ant’s hymen.
Martin Luther King wasn’t trying to force his way into the Whitehouse. He would have needed an army of aliens. His conviction, however, was that while ‘nothing’ may change, while black and white continue to co-exist on this planet, the day would come when the need for leadership would surpass perceived inequalities of skin colour in relevance. Nothing changed. Black and White still exist. Racial crimes still abound – but, on Obama’s account, history will never be the same.
Nothing stays the same. The earth may continue to spin until forever gets a name change – but it’s never the same at any two moments. We meet or lose people every day – and our individual worlds may never be the same because of these events. Yet it all starts with a simple ‘nothing’. A simple gesture (for friendship), one little idea (of inspiration) or one final breath (in death).
The big things may never change –but they never have to; they don’t rule the world. It’s the little things (the ‘nothings’) that do. And when those – like time – change, everything follows. Dawn may become dusk – but it all starts with a tick of the clock’s tiniest arm.
For many, yesterday is only a museum – one to stare at while expecting a better future. But if time lost its mind and walked backwards, how would we fare? If, by incredible logic, yesterday became tomorrow, would you be able to do it all over? Did you really make those changes that brought you here – or did life just ‘happen’ to you?
The shaky recruit now mans his desk; the stranger has become a friend – and the scary boss, a soccer-pal. Change is constant; sometimes, it’s drastic. Everything changes eventually – but, often, the first things to change are those we overlook. The only changes we can really be proud of are the ones made by deliberate effort!