A poetic exploration of the human experience in all of its guts and glory
Let me keep surrendering myself until I am utterly transparent.
The ultimate value of staying open is that we’re scoured clean of all that might burden us: memories, wounds, assumptions, and conclusions — even the debris of unworkable dreams. And more important than what we reach for or aspire to is the cleansing release of all that takes up residence in the reservoir of our perception and feeling. For unprocessed experience and unlived dreams clog our arteries of being, and this can be life threatening. So, like it or not, we’re asked to let everything in and through, trusting that it’s the passage of life through us that is renewing, not what we accumulate or accomplish along the way. As blood must pass through organs, as rivers must empty into the sea, thoughts and feelings must pass through our being, if we’re to stay fresh and changeable. After all these years, I’ve come to see that the aim is not to be empty or full, but to stay an open channel for everything life has to offer. I’m still learning how to do this.
Instructions to My Smaller Self
When hurt, it’s important to scream. Just don’t pray to the scream. When sad, it’s important to grieve. Just don’t build a kingdom of your loss. When falling through whatever you thought would last, admit, “I’m lost and confused.” Just don’t map the world as lost and confused. And when riding the wave, however it appears, feel the strength in you released. Just don’t believe the strength comes from you alone. But most of all, when listening to others, say, “This may be so.” Then look for yourself at what life is painting with all its colors.
Time Is a Rose
What is time but God undressing Himself of His Mystery hour by hour? Or if it suits you, think of time as the wind of existence moving the pollen of being from one decade to the next. Or as an eternal flute that perpetuates the one song we all try to sing until a child is born with more depth and heart than any one child should have. You can understand time as the unfolding of nature or the workings of physics. Whatever language works for you, any will do. But under all our efforts to name what is unnameable, we’re swept along like minnows tucked in the ocean. And while love and suffering let us glimpse the totality of life, it is gratitude that lets us feel our place in the Infinite Sway of Things.
This is why the life of feeling matters. Because, just as a whale feels the entire surface of the ocean as it breaches, someone moved to help another feels the entire surface of humanity as their care breaches the ocean of circumstance. As a cocoon tears, as bark peels, as the hard casing that grows fruit splits — the casing of our pretense and stubbornness breaks open, so the soul can unfold like a rose and fill the world. This is a fate to be longed for, even though we fear it.
Adapted from Things That Join the Sea and the Sky: Field Notes on Living by Mark Nepo (Sounds True, November 2017). Copyright © 2017 Mark Nepo.