21 Jun if I knew the way …
I recently read a book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, about a therapist talking to a therapist, and in it the author, Lori Gottlieb, references the four ultimate concerns identified by the psychiatrist Irvin Yalom: death; isolation; freedom; and meaninglessness—hmmmm, I don’t know about you, but those have certainly all crossed my mind during the long dark night of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I’m reminded that in our own unique ways we’re all constantly considering those four “concerns”. Mostly we’re looking for a sense of certainty. Of the answer to those fundamental questions we carry around inside ourselves. But the challenge is figuring out who, or what is on the other side of that question—who in fact, do we think is going to provide the answer for us? And that’s where my philosophical and theological churn begins in earnest. According to Socrates, “an unexamined life is not worth living”. Easy for him to say; 2,400+ years in his grave. I, for one, am tired of examination, and wish I had a stronger sense of Let it Be. Too much introspection can have you endlessly circling the drain, unable to keep things in perspective, and certainly unable to be content today—not when things are different/better/healthier—but today with whatever you currently hold in your metaphorical hand. I wrote a short piece recently titled Forgive me (see below) in which I imagined God responding to the affairs of my heart. And imaging that sense of scale helped me gain some much needed perspective.
However you seek your wisdom, whether your questioning sounds like Jai guru deva om; is as inscrutable as Tutankhamun Hieroglyphi; as sweet and serene as Ripple; or as intimate as Sara Bareilles’ Once Upon Another Time; I hope that you, like me, believe that someone/something out there is receiving the message. Whether sacred or secular, I hope that you have a rock to hold on to, even if that rock is, in fact, yourself.
Those that know me well, know that I find solace in rocks. I know, a little odd perhaps, but they are cheap therapy and I love picking up stones along the path of my life; they remind me of places I’ve been, they feel good in my hand and they are so elementally beautiful that I find them very inspiring. There is something very appealing about their inherent solidity. Unlike other gorgeous aspects of nature—sweetpea tendrils curling around your finger, soaring birds, flowing rivers and inching tides—rocks feel very permanent and unchanging. I recognize that this too is an illusion, for every rock was at some point part of a larger whole, but I guess they are moving slowly enough that I can consider them stationary, fixed.
Most early mornings will find me sitting on my front porch reading a book and rubbing a stone in my hand like a string of worry beads, or a rosary for those of the Catholic persuasion. I let the worries and contemplations bubble out of me and then look at my rock and realize that nature in its divine wisdom doesn’t care about my problems, so I let them float away and go make another cup of coffee. It ain’t perfect, but it’s keeping the dogs at bay while the Big Man upstairs clears out his inbox.
Ps. I’m not sure why these blog posts have taken such an introspective turn, but I do thank you for being interested and patient. In the words of a good friend—I hope to “Pull up!” soon.
But I have been busy
Pushing the tides out and in and
Growing tender green things and
Listening to the multitudes and
Witnessing the horrors and
Building sweet mysteries and
Standing idly by and
Smashing sandcastles and
Starting again each dawn and
Was therefore unable to address
The small desperations of your heart