The Cusp


“The Cusp” as seen from satellite¬†

My first apartment was adjacent to an imaginary boundary line I’d come to term “The Cusp”. It was right on the line between quiet and calm, and violent and extreme. Heading South from my front door had you walking carefree and content with the world. Leave North? Well, you’re looking over your shoulder, avoiding eye contact, and just trying to make it to the safety of your car. From the front, the small parking lot was void of activity besides the comings and goings of people living quiet lives. In the back, an alleyway was filled with a parade of characters ranging from “should be committed” to “should be incarcerated” with most acting like they had been either and had recently escaped whatever jail or asylum couldn’t hold their particular type of anti-social.

Late one night while studying for an art history final, I heard a loud scuffle outside my door on the common walkway that joined the units to each other. In the light of the next morning I saw the physical results of the sounds I’d heard hours before. Blood splatters on the walls and pools where it had collected were everywhere. Later that day, as I returned from class, the manager informed me what had happened. Apparently, in an escalating argument between two crazies, one loon successfully popped out the eyeball of another using nothing more than a Dixon Ticonderoga. Resourceful.

I moved from that location soon after. I knew I had been on the cusp of something awful. To this day, that mental boundry between decent and disturbing still defines a huge swath of Eugene, Oregon for me despite having fond feelings for the area as a whole.

The edge defines the interior. The contrast between the two sides gives identity to the other.

We’re talking edges.

What It Isn’t

When I was 14, I had a revelation. No, not about why we’re here, how the universe works, or whether dark matter exists or not. Nope. This was about color. It was the idea that the color we perceive an object to be is actually exactly the sum colors that it is not.

So, a green leaf is not green. A yellow sunflower is anything but yellow. And, a red apple is absolutely not red. I came to realize that viewing the majority of the world via reflective light meant an object was actually just reflecting the color with which we were trained to identify it as being. But, that meant a green leaf was actually everything except green, or more accurately, the color of a leaf is “not green” since the colors it actually possesses, keeps, absorbs, does not release, are all the other colors we place in the visible spectrum that are “not” green. The green is expelled, deflected, and rejected. Reflected.

What’s the point? Well, it’s an example of how most often that details and adjectives which we believe to be intrinsic to something, specifically defining of its character, may not be what we casually declare it is. But, instead is more about what it isn’t.

It’s where something ceases to be itself which defines what it is.

We’re talking edges.