Annie Dillard ends her childhood memoir, An American Childhood, by reflecting on the “dim dots” of her life that led to her becoming fully alive – “the moment of opening a life and feeling it touch this speckled mineral sphere, our present world.” By “dim dots” she means the moments and events of our lives that form a single contiguous line toward who we eventually become. Her “dim dots” include various memories of childhood, that continue to hold significance to her, while others, she had hoped not to forget, have strangely faded away.
Though I am more than sure many of my “dim dots,” though significant, have fully faded from view, many remain clearly visible in my mind’s eye. For fear of leaving something important out, or overemphasizing less important memories, I’ll refrain from sharing my list, as it occurs to me today.
The point is, we are the accumulative sum of all of those “dim dots.” Though some life experiences are clearly more memorable and impactful than others, nothing can be excluded. Remove any of my dots, to some degree, I’m no longer who I am today. Obviously, some things matter more than others. But, every experience, every interaction, every relationship, every sensation, every mistake, every achievement, every moment of transcendence, every coincidence, every hurt feeling, every life-stage, every moment of ecstasy, every sickness, every season, every loss, every holy moment, every employment, every abysmal failure, every skill we learn, every book we read, every test we pass, every moment of breathtaking beauty, every act of service, every gauntlet we endure, every weakness we overcome, every act of selfishness, every spiritual encounter, every moment of debasement, every goal achieved, EVERYTHING contributes to who we become. EVERYTHING has contributed to who we are.
In fact, I think it could be argued that every dot, to some degree, predicts the dots that will follow. Not always. But, often.
Beyond the moments that could potentially be marked on a calendar or a map, or recorded in a journal, yearbook, or police record, or photographed or videoed, are the countless other influences – our genetics, our parent’s guidance, our birth-order, our ethnicity or nationality, our social/economic status, our geography, our traditions, our generation, our friendships, our loves and losses, our education, our religious influences, our exposure to beauty or tragedy, etc.
As you reflect on the “dim dots” of your life, here are some questions to ponder…
- Who are the people who’ve made the biggest impact on your life, for good or ill?
- What memories cause you the most joy? What memories cause you the most pain?
- When were you the happiest? When were you the saddest?
- Where has been “home” for you?
- What, to date, has been your greatest achievement?
- What would you erase from your past, if you could?
- What if you had chosen a different school to attend, a different career to pursue, a different place to live, a different person to marry?
- What memories haunt you?
- What historic events do you remember most clearly?
- What precious moment would you relive, if you could, simply for the joy of it?
- When have you felt most alive?
- When did you stop pretending? Have you?
- What moments or experiences, if erased, would most alter who you are today?
- How has your faith and spirituality affected who you’ve become?
If you drew a line, starting with your birth, from dot to dot to dot, all the way to this very moment (yes, this moment – as you read this blog), what dots might be coming next, and after that, and after that?
What are your “dim dots?”