The River or the Stone

Erosion. Losing parts of yourself at the surface of yourself, as if shedding dying skin. We are stripped away of old layers through the friction of living awake.

In my time here I have seen much. These eyes have conveyed many images to this mind. This mind has processed those images, filtered them, and weighed them, together with a myriad of perceptions. In sum total this is what passes for a life. Memory. A collection of curated perceptions. Am I a movie? A sequence of frames. Am I even the editor of that film?

There is, in this thing we call a lifetime, an accumulation of ideas and experiences. And we call that learning. Some of it we may even elevate to the stature of wisdom, those sacred truths we hold most dear and valuable to us. Those ideas that we deem have stood the test of time.

What does it mean to learn? Learning implies change. Since we are no longer the same as we were before. Something is added, or something is taken away. Through the acquisition of knowledge we are altered. Mere facts accumulate, but wisdom is a stripping away. It is a cleansing, a refinement. The shaping of understanding, a stone sculpted by experience, over time.

I am determined to be at one with all that happens, and to surrender to each moment as it unfolds on its own. Yet I am no cork at the whim of the sea. I have a small rudder and a tattered sail and I can set a course for myself.

At best we are castaways adrift on crude rafts. We can steer but a little. And we rarely arrive at exactly where we planned.

I know that there are things in store for me that I cannot plan for or foresee. And I have learned that it is a mistake to call them good, or bad, in the moment when they occur. I cannot predict the ultimate outcome of any given event. My interpretations are almost always off. I am slowly learning to embrace change.

That is the struggle. Being. Acceptance. Perception beyond the body’s eyes and brain. Waiting. Trusting. Listening for the quiet voice of God. Life is much softer this way but progress is slow, almost glacial, like rivers carving channels in rock.

Am I the river? Or am I the stone?

When I was young I was the river. Or so I believed. I cut through life like it was mud. But now I see that I was mistaken. All this time I was the stone. We change but little over the course of a life. It’s hardly discernable. Slowly, sometimes imperceptibly, we are altered by the course of running water. If we are still. If we allow ourselves to be slowly removed, one grain at a time.

One human lifespan. It hardly seems adequate for the job of unlearning. But I’ve accumulated so much sediment. My sandbars are turning back upon themselves. I am convoluted, I am serpentine. But I flow into the sea. The delta of my understanding is vast like the roots of a tree.

The process of undoing is slow. Perhaps it takes as many years to heal as it does to wound. I don’t know. But I wonder, are these lessons necessary? Must a child scar before it becomes an awakened adult? Can this wisdom, gained at so high a price, be acquired some other way? I ask myself, is there a textbook where one can learn the great truths? The answer is, there are many. We call this literature. And I realize that it was all laid out before me, I just chose my own path. The Razor’s Edge, Siddartha, Slaughterhouse Five, A Catcher in the Rye – it was all there, but without the Cliff Notes I was left to interpret for myself. And I was so often wrong.

Seeing is not enough. Seeing is not believing. But there is another perception, beyond sense, that filters in slowly. And it is often subtle. If you’re too busy, too distracted or too numb. You’ll miss it. And I have to keep reminding myself. To be still. To be teachable. And that patience is not the ability to wait in a line for an answer, it’s waiting a lifetime for the questions to come.

o O o


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