Alexei Panshin's The Abyss of Wonder
The Abyss gapes wide. It is deeper and stranger than all our understanding.
We dwell on the edge of the precipice and it makes us uneasy. But as long as we busy ourselves with immediate concerns, we can ignore the uncertainty of our situation. We can go on living as we are accustomed. From time to time, however, the problems of living as we have been can begin to seem overwhelming. Truth to tell, we don't really know as much or control as much as we've pretended. And most of our actual activity is no more than maintenance or busywork or self-distraction.
Now the old answers that we've relied on to carry us through are beginning to fail us. They raise more questions than they settle. It is at this point, almost without recognizing how, that we can find ourselves standing on the brink gazing into nothingness in search of that which does not presently exist.
The prospect of the Abyss is dangerous and frightening. We fear to fall. If we should lose our balance and topple in, like the fool in a deck of Tarot cards, that might be the end of everything we know.
But the Abyss is also alluring. It calls to us with a power beyond all reason. Creativity and newness are to be found here, and riches beyond measure. This is the home of wonder.
What we long for is some way to surmount our present limits. What could we be that we aren't now? What is possible that presently appears impossible? What should we do next?
Marvelous things that we can't quite discern beckon to us from the depths. If we wish to discover what they have in store for us, we must take an imaginative leap into the unknown. Do we dare?
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Posted June 1999.
Art by Boris Artzybasheff
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