Before the Hollow

A year ago, I made a grave mistake. I would call it a serious lapse in character judgment. This season of my life lent greater sorrow than I care to express, but alas, I am here to offer you a small sense of ownership in my life. This time of loss and heartache was a period of great growth for me, yet I cannot help but wince at the thought of the experience. Dark clouds loomed overhead and I was unable to escape the grip of deep regret. The fruit of natural consequence was reaped. Redemption eventually found its way and friendships were mended. Strength was found in resilience, forgiveness, and love. I would not be the man I am today without the turmoil of human errancy, specifically through this stage in my life. And, in truth, none of us would be where we are today without the still-raised scars of our former crosses.

In the archaic year of 2009, a letter penned by my grandparents shared a most true, timeless, prized, and revealing piece of wisdom with me.

It read…

“We may be able to fool others but we cannot fool ourselves because, alone in the mirror, we know in our heart who we really are and how we actually live. The person in the glass helps to keep us on the straight and narrow and it is important for us to pay close attention to what they say back to us.”

Today, I am not here to share my mistakes. I have moved on. Point B has become my Point A – the opportunity for a new beginning. I am here for greater reasons and more intriguing insights. In our darkest times, empathy bears more profound meaning, generates greater transcendence, and alleviates further introspection than all the basking of sorrow that time can buy. From the womb, we are shaped into creatures of habit, purpose-driven by design, waging wars within the cages of our minds. So easily are we entrapped, consumed by a necessity for self-critique and the purging systems wrought of our innate desire for greater aspirations and some higher sense of character. We set very high expectations for ourselves and relay them exponentially upon our fellow peers.

After overcoming an obstacle in my life, I once wrote the following: Above all, the heart glimmers far more than before when it is picked up and put back together by the same person that allowed it to fall apart: Me. And yet, this view seems so empty and driven of such selfish instinct in hindsight. We are more alike than we think. Those of us raised in America know quite well that we are taught the principle of independence above all else. Contrary to Eastern collectivist cultures, we take pride in the loner figure walking the lonely road. Trust no one. Be yourself. Learn through your own experiences. Walk the straight and narrow and leave others behind if you must. I detest and recant this meaningless notion. It is devoid of reason and far removed from the authentic experience that life has to offer.  It is time that we recognize the necessity of vulnerability through a different lens. The world does not revolve around us. Nor does the universe. Just take a look outside.


1300 earths could fit inside Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. 36.66 light years from Earth lies a star by the name of Arcturus. With a radius of approximately 11 million miles, Arcturus dwarfs our sun, being 26 times its size. By definition, a light year is the distance a beam of light travels in 1 year. Antares, the fifteenth brightest star in our sky, is about 600 light years away. It is 800 times our sun’s diameter. This is ridiculously massive, even when compared to Arcturus. Globular cluster NGC 1783 is pictured below.


This is a portion of the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of two dwarf galaxies orbiting our very own Milky Way galaxy. This satellite galaxy, Large Magellanic Cloud, is 158,200 light years away. As if this weren’t enough, “**scientists estimate the Magellanic Cloud [in full] to be about 170,000 light years across.”

The Milky Way Galaxy? Attempt to comprehend our position in the universe now.


What narrow visions we have adopted for ourselves! How greatly have we increased the shackles on progress by seeing ourselves solely through the lens of individualists walking in a simple world built against itself! In this way, we have built ourselves against each other! In a move that is oh so paradoxical, life will only be simplified when we see through the lens of its complexities. Amidst the grand scheme of things, our problems have never seemed so small. Without falling into the digression of worldview analyses, of which I would encourage you to implore mine, I will say this:

In the midst of rampant chaos and blooming flowers, can we not find a way to relate, finding homes in the hearts of others? Truly, are we not all in this together? For the time being, we’re stuck on a common piece of soil. I’ll leave the topic of interstellar travel and space colonization for a later dialogue. This is it. This is the world we have. A planet that we have dichotomized into love and hate, both fear and comfort. Do not fail to recognize the strength of the human bond. It is too often that we overlook our parallel pasts and comparable burdens. We must invest in each other. We must love each other and grow in the name of good will, in pursuit of a new humankind perspective.  Now do what you will, but I implore you: Do it together.

I have yet another poem. For my audience, it may seem an elementary collection of four-line stanzas. For me, this is 1 year ago in time, a man sitting alone at his computer, zooming in on a simple life, alone, broken, pushing everything away that he once knew and loved. I could not see beyond my plight. The accompanying audio was yet another manifestation of my method writing process, though I neglected to place myself in a specific physical environment. The music conducted my thoughts, allowing me to feel deeply what I was experiencing during this time in my life. In this poem, you will see me attempt to come to grips with some of the mistakes I made.

This is how it felt when I punctured the only thing that makes us human. I pushed everyone away. This is a shorter piece. I ask that you click play, read very slowly, and embrace an experience.

This is Before the Hollow.

Before the Hollow

I remember where it all started

The padding of the golden grass

Blurry memories can be so cathartic

The slowing time, the last true laugh

When it all naturally manifested

I felt it was unnatural and odd

My fingers gripping the last bushel

Of some ripe grass woven into sod

The cold swiftly rushed in with the breeze

The deer’s ear pricked up with alarm

Succulent flowers fell to disease

Dry fruit, it fell, with lack of charm

Forms kept bare and seasons traded

Nimble limbs freed coupled leaves

The sun and sky of orange were faded

Grey clouds made it hard to breathe

The rain began to patter lightly

Dampened with each drop as such

The world had turned upside down slightly

My lies had died, I had no crutch

I remember when heads turned

Sidewalk mirages in their stead

Stripped of clothes, my shelter burned

Praying can’t ameliorate the dead

But here it lies, is it just a dream!

The footsteps faded into green

The crackle of fire and warmth and desire

A cold winter’s edge but with wool by the tree

Our heads lie against the crisp bark

Rigid, rough lines adjust hairs with each turn

Lips brush the bruises erasing each mark

Weathered tent in frozen tundra, barely kissing the fern

Miles lay between words we speak

The highest of ladders shan’t rise above

To scale the thick barriers that we keep

The hurt that we dealt in both hatred and love

Can we stay here forever in solace, my friend

By the brook and the trees and always wallow

In the golden grass that mends

The way it was before the Hollow.

You may have recognized this song as a film score from a high profile film. These daunting sounds forced me through a journey which became a very integral part of my personal growth. It placed me in an environment similar to the one for which it was created. I do not find it essential to my presentation to share the name or exact inspiration. Two perspectives can be discovered in this. 1) We are not alone and our problems are henceforth minimized through the grander picture enhanced by empathy and brave intent to look beyond ourselves. 2) If we neglect the human bond, we lose all hope and miss out on the authentic experience that life has to offer.

So. Your takeaway for the day? Zoom out instead of zooming in.



Thank you for your continued support as you join me in expanding the world of knowledge before us. I hope we can create a dialogue of openness, acceptance and inquiry as time goes on. I have grown weary of one-sided discussions emboldened by an ever-growing ignorance for the human condition as it seems. How can we ever learn if we never lend an active and listening ear? I have a couple of exciting things planned for my new website. I hope that you stay tuned for future updates. Please click on the menu in the top right corner and give me a follow by entering your email in the space provided. Stay strong and never stop pursuing, my friends.


Johnathon Gettelfinger

*First image, credits d/t: “DSC04832b Summer Milky Way & Venus, 2.28.14 Big Bend NP” by Patrick Denker is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

*Second image, credits d/t: “Hubble Sees a Youthful Cluster” by ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

*Third image, credits d/t: “Artist’s impression of the central bulge of the Milky Way” by ESO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/M. Kornmesser/R. Hurt from European Southern Observatory is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

**Robinson, Ken, and Lou Aronica. The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. New York: Viking, 2009. Print.

7 thoughts on “Before the Hollow

    1. It’s something I have to remind myself of daily, zooming out instead of zooming in. Thanks again for reading, Miriam. I plan to check out more of your pieces today!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Have we got it wrong? Is the individualist mindset holding America back, or is it the benign force which drives our very principles, pursuits, innovations, and successes?


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