You’ve heard the saying before, “I stood at the edge of darkness, looking into the abyss, and the Abyss blinked.” – or the not-as-oft portrayed version, “I stood at the edge of darkness, looking into the abyss, and I blinked.” Both are very evocative of the characters they’re trying to represent: One is a tough character that takes no bullshit, and the other is a coward.
I never th ought I’d have the opportunity to stand at the edge of Abyss. Staring out into blank nothingness, I wondered about the “others” who had stood here before me. Were they really so tough that this “nothingness” was scared of them? Or were they so weak that they cringed back, scampering away to hide from its invisible eye?
But I think the answer to that is “No”. They were neither brave, nor scared; neither brave warriors or cowards. They were people, honestly, living at the edge of nothing, and trying to turn that into something more than what it was.
You see, as I look into this void, this absence of everything I’ve ever known, I have to question the sanity of anyone who stands here and isn’t afraid. With one step further, you cease to exist.
But then I have to wonder, too, about the sanity of someone who is terrified of that. If you cease to exist, will it matter? Will your step across the threshold have any consequence to you? The answer is, of course, no. It won’t matter to you, because you will be nothing.
But there are people it will affect, and until they come to the edge of nothingness themselves, their course will be affected by everything you do, and your decision to step willingly into the abyss. So, perhaps, that is the meaning behind nothingness. That could be the reason to abstain from jumping heedlessly into this great unknown.
But perhaps the real answer for all of these questions, is how do we walk calmly, with dignity, to the edge of everything, and then step off without fear, and without leaving the road behind us in a state worse than it was before our passing? Perhaps, then, knowing that nothingness awaits, we could focus our efforts on making the journey there better?
Or worse. There are undoubtedly those who would use that knowledge to create strife in this world. To say, “It doesn’t matter,” and seek to damage the paths of everyone around them. So, maybe, the Abyss was formed, with its unblinking, or blinking eye, to deter people from falling to far off the path. Often, our heroes who stare unflinchingly into the darkness are those who possess virtues we adore.
So then the Abyss is an evil punishment, and it will hold us accountable for the path we leave behind. At least, that’s what our stories tell us, when our villains look out into what never was, and see in it their own failures.
Perhaps that’s where we should look when we seek to define that which isn’t. Looking out into darkness and seeing a reflection of what is in our own minds, like a child walking through the house after the power has gone out. Shaped by the stories told to us by our parents, and grandparents, so too is the Abyss.
But the stories never prepare you for the moment when you face it, and you look back and see everything you’ve ever done and where you’ve ever been. To leave that all behind, on stories from people who’ve never crossed the threshold… For the first time in your life, you are alone, and you are scared.
That is where your character is tested. Whether the Abyss blinks at you, or casts you a flirty wink, or brings to mind the warmest summer nights spent laying in the ocean without a star overhead. That is when you know who you are.
Nobody else will ever understand you, like you do, in that moment.