I’ve been wanting to write about this notion for some time, but more pressing matters have intervened, until now.

Many are familiar with this rather well-known quote from Slaughterhouse-Five, “Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.”


Written by Kurt Vonnegut, how does this idea sit with you?

Neale Donald Walsch, of Conversations with God fame, has expressed a similar idea, noting that “why” is a useless question.

So often we really don’t know why something happens. Maybe we aren’t supposed to know, or maybe “why” is a maze we aren’t intended to enter and stumble around in for months or years. But there are those times when “why” does illuminate — to a degree, at least.

Maybe not in the definitive sense, but in the way it points us inward to explore something more deeply … with great intention. Sometimes we need to ask a question for some time … before we finally can let it go, releasing it to the universe like a balloon in flight.

But the other challenging thing about “why” is that most everyone, depending on the question at hand, comes to a different understanding of potential cause and effect. Thus, we can easily find ourselves mired in conflict, discord, and endless rounds of “who or what is right.”

“To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them:
this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

When working on my memoir I spent a great deal of time trapped in the “amber of the moment.” What did a life-altering experience suggest … in the moment, and through the lens of time? While I wanted to share the challenge–the arduous depth–of my experience, I also wanted to include relevant points of clarity: those that emerged when least expected, or that seemed to hit me with a certain emphatic, or disquieting charm.

Finally, I realized I had to transcend time, so to speak.

mccrorybricksThere could be answers … even in the midst of not knowing. But “why” could also be ignored. The paradox is apparent, isn’t it?

Conjecture is rarely factual. Yet, it seems to be human nature to cling to ideas and hopeful resolution to counter the uncertain nature of existence. So maybe the “amber of the moment” reveals more than we realize.

Maybe … it gives us the time, the place, the reason … to muddle through to the other side. Maybe … the “amber of the moment” is curiously perfect, and oddly, necessary.

In my forthcoming memoir, The Silence of Morning: A Memoir of Time Undone, I wrote about the “necessary isolation” of grief. Of course, I didn’t understand the necessity of my perceived isolation in the moment … only in the aftermath, when I turned to glance back over my shoulder. Then I saw, more clearly, the “why” of it all.

As I conclude in my book, time conceals and time reveals.

In fact, I used these key principles of organization to structure the narrative — to show how time permitted great suffering, but simultaneously, how it also provided a context for a release from suffering. Both are important. Thus,  “why” does have a purpose when considered through the lens of time.

A deepening of perspective seems to be the end result. And isn’t this extremely important? Doesn’t our world, our culture, seem to suffer from a noticeable shallowness, a superficial outlook on so many things?

So maybe there is a “why” to it all, a “why” that only only time and perspective can reveal. It just may not be the kind of resolution we are seeking, or expecting. “Why” may actually lead us in new directions, pointing to yet another set of questions … and another.

What are your thoughts on all of this? Ever feel “trapped in the amber of the moment” … ? –dh

  • Thanks so much for stopping by. Hope to see you again on Friday, November 20th, as I continue to focus on memoir — the genre, the path, the point of it all.
  • Also, I’ll have an update next week re the release of my forthcoming memoir: The Silence of Morning — A Memoir of Time Undone.


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When we value the journey itself, new realities are revealed amidst the old.  –dh

  • Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place is about digging into our surroundings to unearth an organic, timeless wisdom. If you’re looking for inspiration or want to lean more about a landscape, a place, that helped me to unearth my spiritual roots, this may be a book you’ll enjoy. We are much wiser than we imagine; it’s just a matter of tapping into what we already know. ~
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