There’s Nothing Out There

There's Nothing To Fear

“There’s nothing out there.”  I heard those words so many times in my last year in the Air Force, that I felt like I was going to go crazy.  What did that mean–“There’s nothing out there.”?  If there was nothing out there, then what were we fighting for?  What did people outside of the miltary do to survive?  And for me, I wondered, “where does that leave the God who is everywhere?” 

Months before I was to be released from Stop-Loss, one of my friends–who had gotten out and then came right back in–had been asked to help with retention efforts.  Once the Stop-Loss was lifted, it was anticipated that there was going to be a huge exodus of troops leaving the service.  To get around that, the message that there was nothing outside of the military was being preached.  This friend was telling everyone about his months out in the world where there were no jobs and people didn’t value his military service.  It was pretty depressing.  The truth is, I was pretty much on the fence about what I was going to do until this message started going around.  Call me rebellious, but this kind of talk just did not resonate with me at all.  It sounded like gang talk.  Not that I was ever in a gang, but I knew how the speech went.

When I was a kid, I had been told plenty of times by people that “there was nothing for a nigga to do but sling [drugs]” if they wanted to have anything.  The people who were saying this didn’t expect to live past about age 18 and wanted to get as much out of life as they could before they left.  I can’t say I blamed them for thinking that way.  There’s enough statistics to back up their fear and enough propaganda that teaches that you’re nothing without the latest this or that to confuse most people.  I know that this type of thinking comes from a survival mentality, so I can’t hate on anyone for subscribing to it.   Besides I deal with my own temptations, but, I knew that this was not my path, nor was it the only reality.  Ultimately, I developed a low tolerance for fear mongers and shut out anyone that spouted that type of logic.

Every time I heard, “There’s nothing out there” the more it made me want to leave.  Why not tell us that there is everything out there–the people we love, the freedom we enjoy, the hope of a better future for everyone?  At least if we believed in that, we could do our service with pride and know that we were working toward something rather than hiding from nothing.  The thought nagged at me and my soul began to reach out for the Everything that I knew was Everywhere and loved and cared for Every One.  I began to feel like re-enlisting under this fear of nothingness would be a denial of my faith and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

During this time I became even more sensitive than I had been before.  I was picking up on the subtleties of every communication I had just like I did as a child.  And strangest of all, I began thinking in poetry.  I always had the ability to write poetry, but this was different.  I was not writing.  If this makes sense, it was as if I was being written.  I was the poem, I was being written by the Poem, and I was writing the Poem all at the same time.  My soul was restless.  While I was physically doing my military job, my mind was soaring.  It was defying the Nothing by attempting to constantly create Something.  The Poems were trying to save my true Life.

At the peak, when I had to decide what I was going to do, I had the conscious thought that if I wanted to endure the next 12 years until retirement with any sanity, I was going to have to shut off this part of myself that was feeling this poetry.  I tried to convince myself that I would come back to this part of me when I retired.  But then the next thought asked, “What makes you think that you will be able to get back to this moment?”  I was stuck.  I could not deny that this was Love talking to me through my soul–not in words, but in feelings.  The truth was that I did not know if I could get back to that moment.  I had to choose then and there.  Was I going to run from the fear of Nothing or was I going to walk toward the potential for Everything?

Well, if you know me, you know that I got out.  At first it was awesome.  I traveled, wrote a book, did open mic poetry, and read a lot.  But after a while, I had to face the world that was confused by my decision and the way I was living.  To them, I walked away from a retirement, a hefty bonus, and possibly a distinguished career.  People were constantly asking me why I did what I did.  Old dudes were telling me that their major regret in life was either getting out of the military or never going in.  It was was pretty ridiculous and I have to admit that the pressure I took on in trying to make sense to the world almost convinced me that I should have stayed in too.  In fact, it still creeps in every once in a while.  But, when I look at my daughter smile or I pray with my wife and I know I made the right decision for me. 

Now that I am seminary, I have a great opportunity to revisit those times and mine them for meaning that I can share with others.  I know that there are a multitude of us that are trying to escape Nothingness.  We are looking for something that makes sense out of all of the nonsense.  I don’t have the answers, but I never stop seeking them and I do my best to contribute to others some of what works for me.  One thing I have learned is to redefine Nothing as the “Potential for Everything” or “The Infinite Canvas of Creation”.  In this Way I embrace the idea that things come and go in life, because I have faith that a Creator God lives and is always giving Everything to Everyone if we are willing to receive it.  I honor my past for what it was and believe that my eternal soul will always find loving expression if I trust in God.

As an added note, let me say that I loved my time in the military and do not feel that my experience before getting out is a general one.  It was just time for me to go and be of service elsewhere.  I’m grateful for everything I learned there and for the people for who serve today.  Everyone has their calling and there is peace for those who answer theirs.  For them there is nothing to fear and Everything to gain.

3 replies »

  1. Hi Ped,

    Lately, i’ve been wanting to join the military…. but i’m too old. I don’t regret never joining, because I knew then I was not at a state that I could. It was not my time. However, now I feel strongly for the experience… Yet I am still okay that I can’t join, because I know that my Everything is Everywhere I choose to go.


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