Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Uncharted Waters

                   NIGHT SAILING

farther out      farther    uncharted waters

bottom nowhere     heart everywhere   far
far from shore    faceful of spray and stars

tiny red boat in a big black night      wave
after wave coming on      compass broken

lost           can't even remember my name
loving   hating   both scoured clean   gone

is this the way     is this the way    tell me
bailing and bailing       ocean still pours in

farther out     farther     uncharted waters


O seekers, remember, all distances
are traversed by those who yearn to be
near the source of their being.

-- Kabir --


     Only the bravest, or craziest explorers willingly seek out certain places, chancing the farthest, wildest edge of nowhere--going alone, afraid, exposed, pursuing some extravagant dream, wondering why they even started to begin with.

     Once, these "fool's errands" were undertaken mostly in the outer world--up the frozen, windswept face of a mountain; into fierce, nearly impenetrable jungle, or across a stormy, uncharted ocean. But all such former unknowns have been thoroughly mapped and tamed by now. You can even make a cellphone call from the top of Mount Everest! As far as external exploration goes, it seems that space is indeed the final frontier.

     Not so, however, for our inner world. As the possibility of geographical discovery has dwindled to almost zero over the past century, the potential for psychological revelation has grown exponentially. Despite the pharmaceutical industry's non-stop propaganda, calculated to convince us all our inner demons (and angels) can be banished by popping a mood-altering or mind-numbing pill, the next great unknown opening up to our boggled awareness is the kaleidoscoptic cosmos of the human psyche--from the harshest primal instinct to the most exalted mystical epiphany.

     Yet this inward Terra Incognita is even more unpredictable and dangerous than the outer one. If you've spent much time there, deliberately or not, you know what I mean. If you haven't, you're only putting off coming to grips with an essential rite of passage. Sooner or later, these dues must be paid, this journey must be taken.

     Unless I'm willing to keep risking, learning, changing, growing, I begin to die--if not immediately in body, then surely in spirit. The only way I can transcend this trap is to dare to let go of what's known, familiar and safe, and plunge into what's unknown, strange, and therefore threatening. This exploration may involve little outward discernable drama. I might never move an inch geographically. But deep inside, "where the meanings are," as Emily Dickinson wrote, entire worlds are ending and others being born.

     Once I accept this inescapable challenge, facing into it with hard-won courage and humble grace, an interesting thing starts to happen. Not only do I get better at coping with these scouring episodes of personal upheaval--more sure of myself, less terrified; I even begin to enjoy them. The excitement of movement; the awareness of transformation; the sense of an old, outworn skin painfully sloughing off, of a new, fresh one secretly forming beneath it--never do I feel more excruciatingly yet exhilaratingly alive!

     When did I adopt the illusion that such wintry seasons won't inexorably cycle back around inside me? They're just as much a normal and necessary part of my being as they are of nature. How else could the decaying past be turned into fertile soil, so the vital, green shoots of the future can thrust up through it, hungry for air and light? Although it's taken a long struggle, many hard dyings and rebirths, I've finally learned. When the time comes around again to let go, to head out into the deeps and dare the unknown, I'll be ready.



  1. I know exactly what you mean. We all live in multiple realities. The ego would like us to think it's the real-deal, but that's the illusion. The real ultimate truth or "word" as Jung put it, is buried deep inside us and if you look for the clues and sign markers and heed your dreams than your world will open up, old forgotten wounds will heal and the obstacles that plague will reveal themselves.

    Thanks for blogging, and good luck in your spiritual journey. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  2. Thanks Josh! No doubt, you get it--and well put too. Great to know you're out there, and paying close attention.