“And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills / ‘Till Landslide brought me down.” – Stevie Nicks from the song Landslide
I went to visit my 83-year old mother yesterday. She struggles with Parkinson’s, a disease the makes everything harder.
And during our afternoon banter, she asks me: “Do you remember what the 5-year old boy says to his mother when asked to recite the golden rule? — “Do it to others before they do it to you.”
And for a second, the translation we both unconsciously felt was “Do it to life before life does it to you.” And with that – we shared a very cathartic laugh – about the absurdity of aging, of physical frailty, of youth’s naiveté, and about the burden we all feel – trying to “make do” with whatever life throws at us.
And our moment of laughter was such a blessing. We were no longer burdened. A clandestine honesty was shared. A lightness entered the room.
Much of what I’ve been discussing – about conscience – can feel like a burden.
We put so much effort into doing the right thing – we often forget – that life actually rises above “all that.” The self-determination we put into our efforts becomes irrelevant – eventually.
And yet, because we do self-determine, we do make the effort to do our best, to live in earnest, to offer help in whatever way we can – despite its seeming futility.
“Man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it’s dark.” – the trust that we give to ourselves often limits our perceptions. We have a hard time breaking through the shadow which our trust creates.
And, for better or worse, the immersion which trust creates simultaneously connects us to one another – and – forces us to let go of competing alternatives. Immersion (like a landslide) is life’s intangible possession; it’s the tapestry of meaning into which we pour our lives – because we are willing to see ourselves through it’s meaning; we willingly let that meaning carry us into the future – despite all risk to the contrary.
Let me give you an example: Jonathan and Sarah are expecting a baby. They eagerly announce the pregnancy to friends and family. They prepare a nursery and are counting down the days. They dream of a future, one that supports and sustains them, with a fierce and tender mix of old and new, of reality and fiction, of uplifting truth and immobilizing fear.
And, with no way to prepare themselves, they do – what we all must – they immerse themselves in a trust that allows room for growth. They fill their trust with curiosity and optimism, with a willingness to discover and fail, – with a desire to be “bigger” than the moment, and a desire to be held by it.
So part of our joy (like theirs) is what we share. We sense new life and the stirring of new meaning. Our letting go of alternative meanings doesn’t feel like a burden if we feel supported and held. And our moments of clandestine honesty make our living bigger; we accept the cracks in our facade, long enough to give truth to the pretense of self-determination. We discover a capacity for humility which allows others to be present in our lives.
So Jonathan and Sarah see themselves in others — and hope — that others will see themselves in them. Empathy and support are the hallmarks of conscience.
And yet, part of our burden (like theirs) is what we never fully acknowledge. We suppress the alternative meanings which we let go of – by staking our claim – and by holding out for the growth and meaning we expect to find – without knowing for sure if we can really get it.
We’ re always at risk for a landslide.
So what happens to Jonathan and Sarah? ….. They have a wonderful, healthy baby girl named Jennifer.
They saw their reflection “in the snow-covered hills, ’till a landslide brought them down.”
Growth, at its core, is a landslide of trust. It’s our one true measure of conscience.
So, if you see your reflection in snow-covered hills you are holding onto possibilities outside of trust’s limitations. And from there, anything’s possible. Even a landslide.
Thanks for listening!
(This blog is written in memory of Marcus Scott Walker who died March 11, 2011. Marcus taught me so much about having an exuberance for life that no words can hold the extent of my gratitude. What a blessing it is to have to have known him! I miss him dearly and always will.)