A Brief History

M showed up one day and didn’t know what he was doing there. Later it would be explained to him that birth for a human being was almost always like that, and that after a more or less protracted apprenticeship to his new situation, he would learn his way enough to get by.

And to a certain extent, he did. But, apprenticing alongside others of his kind, sometimes he would meet one in whose eyes he could see that they also wondered what was really going on.

One day, M had the thought that he hadn’t really made a place for himself and he began to wonder if there was an alternative to persisting in his unrewarding efforts. By then he had become used to being tethered at the dock where he had been deposited 32 years before, and the only way he could see to leave was to sink his boat with him in it. He was preparing to punch a hole in the bottom of his dingy, when a radical thought came to him.

He could unfasten the rope that tied him to the dock and raise the sail with the hope that a passing wind might catch hold of it. This prospect was frightening. He wasn’t used to navigating waves and rocks or dealing with rising and falling tides. Even more difficult was dealing with his own thoughts and feelings, because he didn’t believe he had the skills needed to make his way in a world he didn’t understand.

Over the next few years, landing on various shorelines, he found that he did have a few skills with which to engage situations and forge new relationships. And when situations ended, as they did, he discovered that it was possible to embark on new journeys of livelihood and exploration.

He began to think that he was being given an opportunity to learn something, not just about the world but about himself. And it seemed that in order to do that, he needed to peer across the horizon of what he believed he already knew. This felt like a paradox. How could he look for something that he couldn’t see?

This search for what might lie beyond his known world was encouraged by books he read, which seemed to float into his life like messages in bottles that passed his way, bobbing on the stream of time.

These books, and the company of others who have also been affected by the understanding they express, allowed M to catch glimpses of a greater time than the familiar crowd of moments, piling up one after another. This greater time was not just greater because it includes the sweep of centuries preceding his birth and presumably to continue after his death. The continuum of familiar time, even when it embraces experiences other than his own, was not the dimension he needed to question. What seemed more important was the juncture of all his lived experiences with whatever is allowing them to arise.

He could sometimes sense that a dynamic wholeness is running beneath all the particulars of his life, like spring runoff flowing beneath a sheet of ice. This living energy is carrying everything along; like a wind lifting waves out of the sea and drawing them across the face of unknown depths.

It was harder to believe that there is no ultimate arising or passing away, and that everything he cares about is forever held in an irrepressible, abiding current of Great Time. Yet, sometimes he senses the presence of an enabling, allowing presence that never ceases flowing across the face of a windswept sea of Being. And within this self-generating, all-embracing Being he feels his own presence bobbing along.

M hopes that all of us have a place in this greater whole, because otherwise the weight of our losses-experienced by so many over the great sweep of centuries and across the hills and valleys of this living world–is bound to erode our capacity to hope. And he knows that hopelessness is not a lesson he needs to practice. Now is the time for him to engage life, as the scroll of an unbounded openness, on which no word has yet been written, unfurls.

3 comments to “A Brief History”
  1. Dear M…
    You asked rhetorically… “How could he look for something that he couldn’t see?”
    “What seemed… important was the juncture of all his lived experiences with whatever is allowing them to arise.”

    I agree, the polar knowing of Hope is not required or necessarily helpful… Conceptual experience of Hope vs lack of Hope… can be a dog chasing its tail pursuit.

    M concludes… “Now is the time for him to engage life, as the scroll of an unbounded openness, on which no word has yet been written, unfurls.”

    I agree… unbounded openness is available at the edge. At the edge of conceptualization… just before the process of conceptualizing begins it’s narrowing momentum. At the edge, M would not just “look for something that he couldn’t see”. He would most importantly ‘feel’ into it. Wait patiently, and grateful, for what begins as an appearance, at the edge of conceptualizing… right there is ‘recognition’ of freedom, creativity, vitality… and Being.
    D

  2. Michael

    This is lovely piece.

    “He could unfasten the rope that tied him to the dock and raise the sail”

    “What seemed… important was the juncture of all his lived experiences with whatever is allowing them to arise.”

    The invitation is not to see new things, but rather to see things in a new way; that they are no longer things, but rather appearance of the whole in every thing.

    Keep inviting us !!

  3. Thank you for this piece. Maybe it moved me especially as I am presently at the edge myself, by the sea. Walking the Atlantic shoreline, looking out to the deep, similar thoughts and feelings seem to rise and fall, rise and fall. What is the invitation life now offers? What can I offer in return?

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