Stillness is not my forte. Unusually still and silent as a child, I’ve been wiggling my way through life since adulthood. But travel is a mind shift for me, and after days of battering by sea and air, my thoughts are quieting to something like stillness, and not a little bit of awe.
I’ve finished Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, lapping up the first half voraciously and the second half quite reluctantly. Gruesome story lines aside, the spiritual/scientific aspects resonated deeply, and I find myself uncharacteristically still in response. While I’ve had my fill of divisive theological debates, I remain endlessly intrigued by our unique spiritual possibilities. And of course the older I get and the more broad those possibilities seem, the age-old question of my singular place in the universe nags more loudly.
Concurrently, I’ve almost absorbed Ken Robinson’s The Element, recommended by guru Kim Grant, and it echoes my inklings on passion and purpose. The result thus far is a lot of walking the sands and scribbling in notebooks.
I’m a firm believer in passion as a compass needle toward our true calling. It’s easy to wonder if we have a unique purpose on earth, and cruelly difficult to accept that our own passion is the clear answer. I gave up a passion early in life. Maybe that was okay; maybe it wasn’t, but now I cling to my loves pretty damn tightly. The simplest answers are so often the most profound.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” [words attributed to Nelson Mandela but written by Marianne Williamson] If our light is the gift that we bring to life, then surely that gift is born deep within us. I suspect, in truth, that the gift is our essence.
You don’t go stomping out the essence. Ice cream without cream is something else entirely. H2O without the H? Air. Still good, but a half-assed attempt at water, to be sure. And let’s face it: in many ways, our lives remain half-assed until we get a kick in them.
Does it have to be this way? Mozart knew his passion and gave himself fully to it as a child, composing at the age of 5 his first of over 600 works. Pearl Fryar found his at 44 and threw himself in headlong, no matter how curiously pointless it likely seemed to many. I practice several tentative passions in a hit or miss fashion, hedging my bets, hoarding my eggs, and doubting my essence. Waste is a dirty word.
As I make my way again across the sand in the late afternoon, a man catches my eye with a twinkle and alerts me to the nearly invisible line that I’m about to cross — with my forehead — fishing hour is upon me as the schools rise to feed and man rises to prove his place in the pecking order. I look out to see a college-aged boy wading deep — the water up to his neck before he casts his line. If water is the symbol of full immersion in life, then he is the perfect age (fearless) for such depths, and I am a common portrait of the masses as my toes grip more solid ground in the ankle-deep fringe — the shallows of life. I can’t remember the last time I swam in the ocean.
But I’m thinking about it, and that’s a good sign. I’m thinking it’s time to stop playing safe, stop taking the road more traveled, stop making the “wise” decision — to live a little more on instinct, passion, faith and wet hair. What I’m coming to understand is that passion is not only the food for our souls, but our safeguard through rough waters — and therefore an absolute necessity. If we are created in the image of the Divine, it is not a bodily resemblance, but a parallel power to create. And if our purpose on earth is to continue the privilege of creation, then it is only through our deepest passions that we will garner the intensity, love, and focus to bring our gifts to fruition. Lovely words; still a daunting task.
My walk down the beach this afternoon brings another ocean revelation: two young girls with long, water-slicked hair, shoulder-deep in the high swells, facing each other with four hands clasped, gasping for breath above each wave, emboldened by their partnership, their tiny tribe of adventurers through the present fervor for water. You don’t have to go it alone.
Be still. Your passion is calling, and he’s getting a little hoarse.