just shadows

just shadows

Smoke particles swirl in tunnels of strobe light that cross-hatch the shadows. Techno blares surround-sound, enveloping the mass of sweaty bodies pulsating to dub-step bass. A yelp from my far-right – a girl slips on the thin film of beer coating the stairs. The sixth of the night, I make a mental count.

I am no longer shouting “Do you want water?” only to be drowned out by the dub-step bass. Instead, I make eye contact, smile silently, hold up the water pitcher. They mouth back, “No, I’m good but thank you!” or nod gratefully as I fill their plastic cup.

It becomes some what of a game. A silent guessing game. One holds up their plastic cup in a mock ‘Cheers’ and a wink. I imagine it’s his secret way of admitting how crazy it is in here, but assuring me he’ll keep sober.

I approach a cluster of girls wearing shirts roughly cut into cropped tops, hold up my pitcher. There is an awkward pause; they don’t want to be the first. But, one breaks. She shrugs and nonchalantly holds out her cup. The rest quickly follow suit.

“Thank you!” they holler over the din, in a typical “I’m so drunk and having fun” kind of way. I smile silently, begin to disappear into the crowd. When one of the girls touches my arm and I turn around.

“No, thank you,” her voice is soft and in a moment of sobriety, I hear her heart.


So, the game turns from guessing what they are thinking to trying to hear their heart. If their heart could be speaking right now, what would it be saying?

What is it that they want? What is it that they are looking for? Because I’m almost certain it’s not this beer-greasy floor, this fermented liquid they are inhaling in pitchers.


My mind takes me back to my four-year-old self. We are in a crowded shopping mall and all I can see is a forest of legs and bottoms. Dad is holding my hand so tightly I know it’s one of those times he won’t let go. I can’t see much, but I feel safe like this, closed in by all these strangers’ bodies.

I am lost and found at the same time – lost in this giant, moving mass of anonymous people, yet found belonging to this mass.

There is something about the look in these people’s eyes that reminds me of that child-in-crowd feeling. This desire to disappear into the crowd and belong.

Rid of the awkward social conventions that tightly regulate us, and free to be silly, absurd and childlike.

We desire to be free.


One of the Uncover McGill talks today was about hiddenness, the question of why God does not make Himself more obvious.

The speaker explained that God does not simply “show up”, because His goal is not to convince or force us into obeying Him, but rather to gently transform our hearts to love. So, instead of giving us ‘hard-core evidence’ (and what is that, even), He gives us clues that lead us to make a reasonable decision, albeit a faith-filled one.

Clues from the extraordinary universe we live in, because such an existence demands a causal explanation.

Clues from the human experience we live daily.

My experience at the McGill party last night – this searching for freedom, belonging and human connection – was one of those clues.

As C.S. Lewis says,

Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex…If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world…Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.

I search for the answers to the desires for freedom, belonging and connection I share with the party-goers.

I remind myself that they are aroused in me, the party-goers, really, all of humanity – so that we know there is a real thing we are ultimately looking for.

The rest are just shadows.


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