There’s no metaphors I can stretch here. They’re all too cheesy. Even though that’s not true–I could sit here for the next two hours trying–they would still be cheap knock-offs. Perhaps potential is a word like death or delicious that evades linguistic clarity for most of infinity. It’s a feeling distinct from all others, yet utterly stationary; a fighter jet parked in the hanger, loaded with all the technology I never find a reason to use. I can’t manufacture my own mental Crimea. As I turn inward, into the swirl of paint and pain, I feel it. I am inert, frozen in a horrified grimace, gazing into the utter magnitude of possibility. No instruments exist to measure what can only be felt, and felt at angles; glanced fleetingly through the plaque of baseline awareness. Is there anything that we fixate on as morbidly as the emptiness of our own potential?
Nobody notices a parked Ford Taurus. We will point at the purring Ferrari, or dodge the careening garbage truck, but these are movements, actions, eventualities. These verbs exist by virtue of being verbs. Have you ever noticed how boring the noun is? “Skyscraper” is the conceptual death knell of every unique piece of urban architecture, just as “tree” is the scourge of every flaking, creekside Aspen. If we want to break down the physics, neither skyscraper nor tree is actually a noun. Rather, the words represent the convenient symbol placed on a process of dynamic, ever-changing energy so utterly complex as to defy comprehension. Does the skyscraper become a verb if it wiggles in the wind? Is the tree still stagnant if we can see it’s growth before us?
It seems that we view our own potential in the same way, as a noun, a “thing” that exists inside of us, a blimp that puffs in the belly when that one person calls or we get a promising horoscope in the morning paper. But really, when we check in–really feel into the thing– potential is a faint tickle in the stomach or a warming of the chest or even a quickening of the mind. It happens, then it’s gone. Maybe a thought replaces the gurgle, maybe many thoughts tumble over each other, culminating in the inevitability of a new job or speaking to the president about all this inequity, just the two of us. But then Sports Center comes on. The spinning fades, there was that thing that could happen, but now there’s Lebron James throwing down a tomahawk. Left stranded, awash in the concave of a bodily imprint, my ass sinks deeper into the potential for a good nap.
How do I relate to the nebulous blob of potential energy from a mind trained into stasis? I guess I sit down and write about it. I stare at it as I would a dead cat or a museum exhibit, waiting for it to transform and move my heavy limbs to reluctant action. And then, in the moment of verbiage, as the stultified brute lurches awake, I smile and take all credit for the outpouring of nonsense. But it’s my nonsense, just as a skyscraper is some architects, just as an alleyoop is Lebron James’. It’s the acceleration of a thing that hates to remain immobile, a dog let off its leash. And apart from those moments of furious finger yoga, it is nothing. No, worse than nothing; it’s a mirage, a siren beckoning from the rocky shores. There is no movement towards; there is only becoming. And a whole bunch of metaphors where once there were none.