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Paul Luikart

Empty Room Like a lot of kids, I used to fantasize about slugging a bottom of the ninth game winning home run for Cleveland. Game 7 of the World Series of course. Crack! And the crowd goes wild. I grew up some and fantasized about becoming a comedian, and even lived that one out a little bit, at least more than I ever lived out the game-winning home run fantasy. A whole room laughing at my jokes? Mozart himself couldn’t create a sound quite as beautiful. In the more recent past, I’ve thought about what it’ll be like to read from my National Book Award winning novel (you know, after I write it.) The reverberation of my own voice in lecture halls packed with fans. Fans? Nay, international literary aficionados. And then afterwards: “Mr. Luikart, absolutely stunning. A harrowing work. Truly.”

But right now, you know what sounds good? Utter silence. No, strike that. Sounds that go on and on, whether I’m there to hear them or not. Sounds like water dripping from the ceiling of an empty cave. Wind in pine trees. Ocean waves. Fire. In other words, the sound of a lack of me. I don’t really permit myself any kinds of reminders that the good of the world isn’t predicated upon the author of this blog entry. In fact, the world still crackles and splashes and burns whether or not I exist. So what good is it to exist? Of course that depends. Who are you? What religion do you (or don’t you) practice? Do you have suicidal tendencies? Likely, though, the answer falls on a line segment stretched between two philosophically opposite poles. At one pole, you might find people existing because they’re working out their salvation with fear and trembling. At the other, people who are hyper-aware of the meaningless of life and would just as soon fall off into the void.

The most profound image in the Bible to me is Jesus going off alone. Which might sound weird that I think that’s all that profound. The Bible is full of profound images: An entire sea magically dividing itself in half, for example. I have to imagine that Jesus’ life, except for those times He spent alone, was a non-stop cacophony of wailing and “Heal me! Save me!” and the ancient equivalent of “You’re making zero sense, Rabbi.”

The Bible tells us that Jesus went to be alone so He could pray, that is, to talk to and listen to God. Far be it from me to put my own feet in the footsteps of the Divine, but if I were Jesus and I’d just gotten away from my idiot best friends or a bunch of lepers whose body parts keep dropping off or all the hoity-toity church types who get their rocks off praying super loud and then, when I finally disappeared into the hills, my Father said to me, “Okay, here’s the next plan,” I think I might say, “Please, God. Let’s just be quiet. Okay? Just for a minute.”