Ash and Clay
It emerges like the first shy blush of the dawn. It sparkles, pinned to the luminous breast of the new moon. It arrives quite suddenly and unannounced, concealed in a swirl of dry wind that scatters a shroud of ash over our life as we knew it. It blinds us in the glare of a nuclear sky.
After years of “quiet desperation” we encounter the One who makes us feel alive, young again. A new love, bright with promise. We laugh and we dream again. In the eyes of our Lover, in the sweet swoon of his kiss we relax and gratefully fall into the unknown. And in the delicious freedom of our free falling, we swing the wrecking ball through the shiny veneer of our marriage and watch as it swings in slow motion across the boxed up hopes and black bags of disappointment.
“Finding ourselves” may leave a trail of destruction as sharp and black as obsidian. Many of us will confront a terrifying Goliath who darkens the sky, throws his head back and laughs at our puny efforts. Standing small in his giant shadow we begin to wonder and doubt. Will we even like this Self we seek? Will be brave and strong enough to slough off the old ways, leave it all behind? Who are we, anyway? A chimera? An ever-changing evolving experiencing of change and flux, decay and re-birth?
Most of us will meet the ambiguity and paradox within ourselves as it is mirrored back at us in our relationships. Most of us will wander through a labyrinth of contradictions where nothing stays the same and the relationship to ourselves, to our world, is constantly recreated.
Experimental philosopher Joshua Knobe asks us to “ imagine what things are going to be like in 30 years. In 30 years, there’s going to be a person around who you might normally think of as you — but that person is actually going to be really, really different from you in a lot of ways. Chances are, a lot of the values you have, a lot of the emotions, a lot of the beliefs, a lot of the goals are not going to be shared by that person. So, in some sense you might think that person is you, but is that person really you?”
Neale Donald Walsch cautions that we “avoid the tendency to catastrophize.” That we stop worrying about all that could occur tomorrow, things that may never happen. And yet as we stand on the precipice of a life-changing choice and our hands are shaking and our hearts flutter and beat against the cage of our lives like the wings of a trapped bird, we do worry. It is part of our humanness to fret and to worry. We are hardwired to ask, “what if ?” The impulse to “find ourselves” to “become” more than we are is the antithesis to “being in the now.” It strains against the shackles of obligation. It chaffs and frets as it paces round the constricting circles of daily routine.
The Complexity Theory proposes that our lives will eventually erupt into chaos before they settle back into a state of equilibrium. And the longer we have chosen to stay in the gridlock of statis, the more violent and powerful the volcanic eruption may be. Often we cling to the flimsy remnants of what was. We may leave an abusive and painful relationship and yet grieve its loss, even yearn to go back to the way things once were. We may leave a job, move to another city, end a friendship, and in our dreams and in the heavy ache in our heart, we always go back. In our grieving we are flung into turmoil, we feel we may drown in ocean of tears. We behave strangely; we try to delay our evolution through bargaining. We repress our grief or anxiety with medication, distractions and substitutes. We find comfort in the immobilised state that embalms us in the numbing ointment of our unhappiness. And the longer we resist the longer we spin in every decreasing circles into the vortex of our re-birthing.
Leaving Home is an archetypal experience. In myth and fairy tale, the hero who leaves his father’s house to journey through the wild woods must slay dragons, endure physical and spiritual deprivation, must wear the shirt of arrows in his struggle to fulfil his Fated quest. As we separate from the matrix of our society, or our family, or uncouple from a relationship that no longer nourishes our spirit, we will discover those parts of ourselves we have buried long ago: our feelings, our gifts. what it is that we truly value. Like our original separation from our mother’s womb we must all face loss of innocence as we gain new experience in this earthly life. We will bask in the warmth of love and suffer in the wasteland of betrayal. We will experience conflict and we will struggle as we taste the forbidden fruit and swoon in its sweetness.
Psychology is only now acknowledging what the astrologers have known for eons: in our struggle to bring back the lost pieces of ourselves are lives are often fragmented into chaos. We are propelled into a maelstrom of grief which shocks, terrifies and awakens us, so that we may sail to new world. Our hero’s journey towards individualisation may take many forms and come at different astrological cycles in our lives. Loss and patient repair work are the warp and weft of the rich tapestry of life.“Through failures, symptoms, problems, we are prodded to renounce attachments, redundant now. With the breakdown of what has gone before, the possibility of rebirth comes,” writes Marilyn Woodman.
Our inner call to renounce old ways, old attachments, carries with it no guarantee. We will walk through the vale of tears and perhaps never find our Belonging. Yet as Socrates said unequivocally, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Our our soul’s purpose is to experience. And there are no “Rights or Wrongs.” So often it is when we are sinking that we discover Who we truly are. When we can lift ourselves above the mortal realm and see our journey as a soul contract or an archetypal voyage of self – discovery we will be prepared for our journey. The sea will be dangerous. Clouds the colour of burnt bone will crush out the light of the sun. The dark undertow will suck and pull at our little boat. And in the whirlwind and in the lashing rain we will meet our Divinity.
Australian poet andcartoonist, Michael Leunig, offers us the blessing of this poignant prayer:
God Bless this tiny little boat
And me who travels in it.
It stays afloat for years and years
And sinks within a minute.
And so the soul in which we sail,
Unknown by years of thinking,
Is deeply felt and understood
The minute that it’s sinking …
Milk Carton Kids – Ash and Clay