It seems that we are often in the grip of opposing tendencies and easily err on one side or the other. For instance: gravity prevents us from flying off into space and can strengthen our bodies so that we are able to explore our surroundings; but gravity can also whisper in our ears that it’s not worth the effort to move. The urge to pick up and leave can struggle with feelings of appreciation for a home where we sometimes feel understood and welcomed. Home and the urge to explore beyond its borders dance in a field of being in whose complexity we live our lives. Both are necessary, just as in-breath and out-breath cannot exist without each other.
These two needs–for transformation and for comfort–operate in a shared dynamic and constantly jockey for predominance. But sometimes one becomes too strong, so that we lose sight of their mutual interdependence.
Without a place to stand, we cannot see the far horizon nor take a step towards it. Without an impulse for change, we cannot appreciate our own past and the ways of looking it has given us.
Without a developed ego, how can we challenge our self-centric propensities? Without a reasonably strong ego, our time and energy will be taken up trying to survive—emotionally and psychologically—in a world that remains unpredictable and fundamentally unknowable.
But if we run away too soon, before we have truly outgrown our beginnings, we may spend our lives trying to get back there. Then—unlike the Biblical Prodigal Son, whose return was welcomed by his father—we may find that our old home has been boarded up, and our family moved on to nursing homes and graveyard plots. Or perhaps they never even noticed that we left.
When Daniel met the lion on the path—both of them at the outermost edges of their known worlds–he might have turned away, deeply afraid. But he felt secure enough in his own being to notice that the lion had a thorn in its paw. There must have followed a moment when the lion gave him permission to approach. For both Daniel and the lion, their accustomed worlds gave way to something wider and more spacious. And when, months later, they met in the Colosseum, at a time when Daniel needed help to stay alive, the lion remembered the help it had received, when it also needed it.
Our personal realities can be like that—surprising us with a helping presence when we had despaired of ever finding one.
I aspire to remember with appreciation all the help I have received when I most needed it. I want to be like the lion, ready to help Daniel if we ever cross paths again. And since many of my Daniels have already moved on, I hope I can notice others who, like me, are still wandering around in this world of light and dark.