This is the 38th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.
Meaning, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 8th January 2012
Word count: 925
Theme: technology, listlessness, future, hope, meaning, striving, determination
It wasn’t a glorious childhood, but nor was it a Dickensian tale of woe, abuse, and suffering, but it wasn’t glorious. It was kind of bland, you know? Just like five billion others out there. I guess that’s why I did it.
It was never planned, not early on anyway.
I was like everyone else, I woke up in the morning, showered, brushed my teeth, had breakfast, had coffee, then drive into the office. It was a nine-five job, only it never worked out that way. That said, when I was honest with myself, I didn’t actually know what my job was. It was one of those meaningless jobs, I attended meetings, spouted sage-like nonsense and plans, listened to other people make sage-like nonsense and plans. Then we’d make actions, and go bug other people. Invariably it would all be very exciting, and buzz words would fly around, names would be dropped, and ultimately nothing would happen.
Then one day I realised my life had no meaning, my job paid me a wage, but I never achieved anything. Outside of work, because of the hours I worked achieving nothing, I did very little. Oh occasionally I would start a new hobby, but then I’d drop it. There were video games, there were nights out, meals, occasionally I would even cook.
I’m not quite sure when it happened, it sort of built for months and months, but at some point the realisation became overwhelming. My life had no meaning.
I started to play about with work, I’d suggest things not through any genuine belief in an idea , not to attempt, just to see how meaningless I could make it. I revelled in the meaninglessness of it all. It was a game, just how far could I debase myself without anyone noticing. No one did notice.
It was petty and childish. It didn’t give me meaning. So I did the only thing I could, I quit. I walked out. It’s funny, they offered me more money to stay, to increase my inconsiderable responsibilities inconsiderably. I didn’t budge, and my bosses couldn’t wrap their heads round my reasoning at all. I can still imagine them occasionally asking what happened to Max Rosen, and shaking their heads in wonder.
There was no plan, I just quit. So began my quest for a meaningful life. I had no idea where to find one.I did the done thing, I went online and looked up various charities. I had a great time cleaning out a stream, helping care for a wooded piece of land, helping out an old people’s home. It was good fun, but it never gave me that meaning I sought.
Then I tried dating, and that didn’t help either. It was fun, it was comical, occasionally down right awful, but it wasn’t meaning. I didn’t want to being in love to be the meaning in the end, it was too painful when that meaning ended.
I considered a new career, but what career could give my life meaning? I was thirty years old, reasonably intelligent, I could learn anything, but time, time was an issue. I was impatient, I wanted my meaning right away.
Through a series of odd events, ranging from a meeting with two world religious leaders, two presidents , three prime ministers, and a queen, along with some of the brightest minds of the world, I found myself on a disused shuttle rocket launch pad, strapped into what distinctly felt like a rickety old chair someone had picked up from a thrift ship. I was thirty three and about to go into space.
It all happened so quickly, but the long and the short of it was this. There was to be a test run of a new space engine, purportedly It could travel at nearly half the speed of light. I was going to be it’s test pilot, it was a project that was shared by the great and good countries of the world, but no one could decide who would be going up.
So, as I was out there looking for meaning, I got sighted near these ridiculously important people. The press began to speculate this recurring face was being presented as a potential candidate. I know I worked out, travelling to all those places, I loved going for early morning jogs. I dressed smartly by day simply because I was trying suits in each of the cities I visited.
Once I was noticed, I was introduced to those very important people. Then suddenly, being semi-famous for doing absolutely nothing, I got the invite. I was half minded to turn it down, yet here was something meaningful, the first man in an experimental rocket that would one day lead man to the stars. I would be going further than any man has travelled, how could I turn that down.
And now mission control was counting down the clock. Soon the conventional rockets would blast off and take me into space, where I will settle into position, aim my vessel in clear space, and press a button.
As the rockets began, as the whole ship vibrated, I finally felt meaning. Now was my moment, and it terrified me. In one instant, I would be in the history books, like my hero Neil Armstrong. Rather than count down the time until I reached orbit, I rehearsed my speech that I would speak to the whole world.
“For the people of Earth, for the future of humanity, to the stars.” Like a litany, it helped me survive that harrowing journey, and steeled myself for that moment.