Saturday, January 15, 2011

11. Courage to face a crocodile (Part 2)

So I'm standing here, on the rim of this cliff/on the bank of this river/at the forest's mossy green edge. I'm standing here, and I'm seeing all of these sharks swarming, these gorillas lining up, these crocodiles lying in wait. I begin to name them: That one there? That's self-doubt. That cluster right below me, jaws furiously snapping? Those are all of the ways that Ic and society try to keep me "in my place" (whatever that means): "I'm/you're not smart/talented/special/pretty/strong/brave/gifted/independent/experienced/ capable/_________ (fill in the blank) enough." You (these monsters tell me) are not enough. Therefore, little girl, you have no chance of making it across this river. Best to stay right where you are, where you're safe. You're comfortable where you are, aren't you? You have clothes, food, a bed. Best not to risk the journey.

I think one of the greatest challenges set before us human beings is that of living our lives exactly as we envision and are called to do-- that of really living-- in spite of these terrible voices that are constantly firing at our defenses, both from within and without.

It is a grand challenge, to be sure. But the alternative, of not rising to the challenge, of not giving it a shot? No, thank you. That's not good enough-- for me.

So. I have come to an understanding with and within myself: I refuse to dabble at the edge for much longer. The question still remains, though: How to defeat the crocodiles? How can I possibly dive into those shark-infested waters and emerge, intact, on the other side?

For a while, I assumed that it was a question of merely building a strong armor-- I would strengthen all of my defenses, I decided, and then just plunge in and make a run for it. I figured I'd get chewed up pretty bad, and lose some flesh along the way-- a hunk of an arm here, a big gash in leg-- but, hey, I've got a pretty high tolerance for pain.

It was only when I started writing this that I realized that's not the way. In fact, I was envisioning the goal all wrong. Because the point, I think, is not to get to the other side. What is "the other side" but a mirror of where you already are? The reflections are opposite, perhaps, but their content is the same. On the other side I would still be on a bank, on a cliff, at a forest's edge-- just looking at it from another direction. No, we are not meant to fend off the swarms that seek to tear us apart. Think how long one could get bogged down, there, fighting for her/his life! Why, it's quite possible one would never get out.

Here, instead, is what we should do: Slip downstream, a ways. You will hear terrible sounds as the hungry hordes, desperate for flesh, for sustenance-- for anything, because they are not sure of what they want, began to rip into each other. Keep walking. When you've cleared the mass gathering, take off your shoes. Strip off your clothes, too, if you feel like it (this part isn't necessary, but it does mean that your travels will be even less bogged down). Then, step into the water. Walk toward the center of the river, until your feet lose touch with the pebbled bottom and your body is floating free. Duck under, into the current. Let the river carry you, out into the great wide sea.

That sea is life! Seek it. Let yourself go.

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