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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Peaks and Troughs

Emerson once said "All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better." I can not think of a more transcendent life philosophy. To consider every encounter or foray into living, not as success or failure, but strictly as experience. If we could do so consistently, we would no doubt transform our lives and be more present in daily life.

The Apostle Paul tells us (Phil 4:11) that he learned contentment regardless of the situation he found himself in. Sometimes there was plenty and other times there was want. He did not let himself get anxious about either, and knew that each could be enjoyed for their season and that both were temporary states - sometimes of the mind, sometimes of the physical. Both a reflection of the cyclical nature of ourselves and the planet we live on.

In life, we are always moving along the abundance/need continuum. Beginnings and endings. This is true not only of our financial lives but also of our spiritual, emotional and physical selves. With experience some learn a certain art to riding the wave. Fully embracing it, surfing life in full freedom of spirit. To others, the wave is always out to get them. Sucking them down in undertow, bringing them back up only to gasp for air and spit up water.

More or less we are all in the same current, we just have varying skill and intuition about how to navigate. Those who can conjure up fearlessness will love the open sea and be made alive by its offering of experiences. When storms brew they waste no time battening down the hatches and using all of their knowledge to safely ride it out. When the calm returns, they set their course and steer by the wind. They look up during the day and follow the sun from horizon to horizon, giving thanks with open hands and hearts. At night, they count the stars, seeing them with wonder as they fill up the sky. They trust the sea to always be their rising - whether stormy or calm. Both invite them to hone their skill.

For some, fearfulness is all they know. They never quite find their sea legs. Storms are met with head between knees, wallowing in the belly of the boat. Praying someone will come along and take the helm, perhaps Jesus will take the wheel. Although the storm eventually passes, it seems longer than it actually was, gripped by doubt and anxiety. The sun above has once again begun to shine but no one below deck realizes this yet. They are still anticipating the wave that will eventually bury them at the bottom. Their breath is constricted and shallow from hyperventilating. There is no course, no one learned how to use the sextant and batteries in the GPS have long been dead.

With some life experience, I have been learning to trust the sea to be my rising. I like the sea as a metaphor for living. To batten down the hatches when necessary. To breath in and out during the storm and to come back up to the deck just as it is passing, because I don't want to miss a minute of seeing the sun break through the clouds. And I want to appreciate the beauty of being a witness to the calming of the waters. Storms can be catalyst to great and unnecessary drama. It takes having your wits about you to ensure you don't stay down longer than you should and that you don't pick fights with your deckhands. We are after all, in this together.

Right now, I'm weathering a small storm. Mostly it is inconsequential. A small amount of head between knees, but not too much. Sometimes our storms are started by people we expect to love us and want us. When they don't, our boat gets rocked. We get filled with indignation and forget that we have at one time or another been the 'didn't love didn't want boat rocker'. All in all it serves to remind me that my boat might just be a little to close to another's and that I'm getting moved by their wake.

I want to love everything about my life - even during the painful parts, the times when it is difficult to see the beauty or trust the rising. I want to experiment with it all.

Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

2 comments:

rob said...

I warm to your idea about us all being in this together.

Emerson quote appeals too.

Smarts said...

Rob, so nice of you to comment. I think I am addicted to Emerson quotes.