The Burning Chasm


There’s a hole inside the heart, deeper than any a bullet can make; a never-ending chasm of longing that stays with you all of your days.

When it appeared is anyone’s guess. Maybe your mommy never loved you enough. Maybe your brain turned out a little different from everyone else’s. Or maybe it grew with you in the womb. That’s probably it… nothing else makes any damn sense.

As a kid it never bothered anyone. Your parents thought it was a phase, a momentary bout of childish difficulty. You thought it was just part of life. Until you noticed no one else was like that. Yeah, that phase you went through? It’s still there. You never really did get through it. You just started hiding it.

Phase two: the teenage years, when every bit of contrarian culture seems to be that missing answer. The angsty music, the brooding clothes, the tumultuous and exhausting relationships. That one time you found true love. It was over soon enough. Looking back it all seems silly and immature. So you dismissed that petty hole in your heart and grew up.

But guess what? That hole was still there. Except it turned into a chasm while you weren’t looking.

Now you have no time to deal with it. You’re trying to live a normal, serious, productive life. Get a good job, get married, have kids, the whole bliss package deal. Only that empty chasm won’t let you. Work fails to excite you, like it fails to excite the whole rest of the world. Only with you, the boredom’s fatal. Your mind’s found your perfect life partner, only your heart sabotages the whole operation. Can’t let go of the love of your youth. Which obviously wasn’t “the one,” but still somehow managed to fight that emptiness off like nothing before, and no one since. You’d like to forget and start anew. But that chasm won’t let you.

Next come the offerings. Phases, like being a teen again, only private and managed. Join a jam band. Write some poetry. Go to see the world. Throw all that at the chasm so you can “get over it” and continue on. Get it out of your system so you can be at peace, dammit.

But it doesn’t work. The chasm’s still there. Worse, it’s no longer content to merely sap your energy with distant longings. Now it burns. It demands to be fed. And don’t even try dismissal, or you will know agony.

Desperate, you analyze: What’s wrong with me? What deep-seated psychological issues do I have? What gave root to the chasm, and how can I pull it out by the roots? But that doesn’t work. All those roots turn out to be empty branches. The closer you get to the reason why, the more it appears to be just “because.” The more firmly you grasp at the root, the more you realize that you’re grasping your very soul.

What now? Live out a normal life on the outside, with a dead carcass of an inside, killed to stop the chasm from burning? Destroy the host and abandon torturous life altogether? Adopt an existence that placates the emptiness at every turn, hoping to find meaning and fulfillment someday?

Or surrender to the chasm? Dive in headfirst, consumed by its unquenchable fire? Become what the void longs for? Be careful. It is not of this world. It could destroy you as surely as if you took your own life. But what if it’s you? What if you aren’t of this world, only here for a brief time? What if you were sent to Earth with a mission, with that burning chasm built in so that you can never forget that you’re more than just flesh and blood?

After all, your life is but one short stay on this mortal plane. Maybe that burning chasm is just the voice of the real you, reminding your avatar to stay focused while you’re down there.

And so the chasm burns…

Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx. He is also the founder of the Rights Brigade, a mover for the Free State Project, and a martial art instructor.