SuperTalk Mississippi

Edwards: A midnight guide to solving the world’s problems

No matter how hard I tried, sleep remained an elusive companion last night.

It wasn’t just the usual restlessness that kept me awake; it felt like the weight of the world’s troubles was pressing heavily on my mind. My brain was stuck in the muck of the daily grind and the relentless, troubling newsfeed that always steals my attention, cycling through the latest headlines and endless societal debates with no off switch in sight.

So, in a mix of sleepless frustration and resignation, I finally found myself wandering out to the porch, my eyes heavy but my mind racing. There I was, in the quiet of the night, sitting on my porch overlooking tranquil Biloxi Bay, where the only sounds were the occasional mullet leaping out of the water and the distant hum of the world asleep – except for me, of course.

And what does a tired 40-something guy do in the face of such sleepless adversity? Naturally, my brain decided to tackle the mysteries of the cosmos and solve the world’s problems right then and there. Yes, you read that right. Instead of counting sheep, I counted the stars overhead, pondering the universe’s vast complexities with the seriousness of a philosopher and the focus of someone too awake to bother with trivialities like taking out the overflowing trash can staring at me through the patio door, which my wife had already asked me to handle hours earlier. But who has time for taking out the trash when my brain needs to solve the world’s problems while tackling the greater mysteries of human existence? Unfortunately, I’m not sure my wife would agree with my order of priorities.

In my quest for some semblance of peace, or at least a distraction from my own overactive brain, I pulled out my well-thumbed copies of two of my favorite books: Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Return of the King.” There, under the starlit sky, I sought the literary wisdom that I hoped would give me a better perspective on all the mess that had been haunting my thoughts, or at a minimum, lull me off to sleep in the process.

First, I turned to McCarthy’s “The Road,” a narrative steeped in the stark reality of a post-apocalyptic journey set after an unnamed apocalypse brought on by human frailty, yet bound by the unbreakable bonds of love and hope amidst despair. I already knew just the page I was looking for:

“Once there were brook trout in the streams in the mountains. You could see them standing in the amber current where the white edges of their fins wimpled softly in the flow. They smelled of moss in your hand. Polished and muscular and torsional. On their backs were vermiculate patterns that were maps of the world in its becoming. Maps and mazes. Of a thing which could not be put back. Not be made right again. In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”

This passage, a hauntingly poignant reminder of the beauty and tragedy of impermanence, made me pause. The poetic beauty in McCarthy’s description of a world irrevocably changed spoke to my troubled thoughts, reminding me that even in the face of overwhelming change and loss, there remains beauty in the resilience and persistence of life. Yet, it also served as a warning reminding me of the fragile balance we must strive to maintain amidst the unfortunate power of human destruction.

As I sat there contemplating McCarthy’s words, my thoughts inevitably wandered to the less tranquil realms of our current societal landscape—the troubling topics of political polarization, the rise of disinformation, the stark realities of living in a post-truth society, and the unfortunate void of leadership that characterizes our modern world. The discomfort of the daily news cycle with its inevitable us vs. them narratives seemed to loom large even under the vastness of the night sky. It’s a peculiar thing, contemplating the universe’s mysteries while grappling with the tangible anxieties fueled by our deeply divided world. Yet, there I was, trying to find peace in the absurdity of losing sleep over a world that seems to spin just fine without my worry.

Then, seeking a shift in mood, I opened Tolkien’s “The Return of the King” to the yellowed and well-worn pages of wisdom that always seem to find me just when I need them:

“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.”

Reading this, I couldn’t help but chuckle at myself. Here I was, fretting over a single sleepless night contemplating the state of the world, while Samwise Gamgee found hope in a single star amidst the darkness of Mordor as his world was ending. Talk about perspective!

In this moment of nocturnal reflection, I also found an odd comfort in the juxtaposition of incomprehensible cosmic wonder against the relative pettiness of our earthly concerns. The profound insights from Tolkien and McCarthy, far from being an escape back to a peaceful sleep, offered a wise guide through the complexities of our time. These timeless stories, with their epic struggles and existential quests, reminded me that today’s shadows, much like the Shadow of Mordor, are but passing things. They taught me that hope, love, and beauty endure, even in the most challenging times, and that sometimes the act of holding onto these truths is in itself a form of resistance against the mire that so often feels overwhelming.

It was there, in the quiet contemplation of literature and the cosmos, that I found a peculiar kind of wisdom—a reminder that, despite the chaos of our world, there are constants in the beauty of the universe, the enduring nature of hope, and the resilience of the human spirit. This realization brought a smile to my face. Amidst the hustle and bustle of daily life, the endless to-do lists, and the ridiculousness of the 24-hour news cycle, perhaps what we need most is a moment to pause, look up at the stars, and remember the bigger picture.

As the first light of dawn began to paint the bay in hues of pink and gold, a thought occurred to me: just as I needed to take out the trash, both literally and metaphorically, before my wife awoke to find the garbage can still overflowing, perhaps it’s time for all of us to undertake a similar cleanup on a societal scale. In a world too often divided by those who work tirelessly to sow discord, the need for statesmanship, accountability, and a collective effort to bridge divides has never been more pressing.

In the end, my night of insomnia with its star-gazing, literary musings, and reflections on our societal state, turned out to be a profound reminder of the simple yet powerful truths that have always guided us. Amidst the vastness of the cosmos and the intricacies of human existence, we find reflections of our own journey—a journey that, despite its challenges, is illuminated by the enduring light of hope, the unyielding resilience of the human spirit, and the timeless wisdom of redemption found in the pages of a good book.

And perhaps, just perhaps, the key to navigating the complexities of our time lies not in having all the answers but in appreciating the questions, finding joy in the journey, and most importantly, remembering to take out the trash – in every conceivable sense of the word.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of SuperTalk Mississippi Media.

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