Friday, January 13, 2012

Ingredient 2: rivers - Blog4

Honestly, I have no idea what I was thinking when this word made the List ten years ago, but everyone knows that if you skip an ingredient, your recipe's gonna suck. So. Um...rivers. Okay. They're nice. Tranquil. Made of water. Fish swim in them. They often connect a smaller body of water to a larger one...
Actually, in all seriousness, rivers are a perfect metaphor for life. So, let us pretend that it is this sort of depth I was after when I randomly plopped the word "rivers" into the first line of the List.
Like a river, life has a distinct flow to it. And there are big jagged rocks and fallen trees that break up the flow; forcing change, forcing choices. Sometimes we see the obstacles in time to counsel ourselves and/or others that may be along for the ride. Other times, we come around a bend and (seemingly) without warning we catch a tree limb to the face. Ah, yes. Life. Isn't it just a jolly, roaring wonder? I guess the point of the river metaphor (and it's obstacles) is to emphasize that no matter how distant or big the choices may be, we have to make them. If we are living, we are choosing. By breathing, we're choosing. In holding our breath, we're choosing. Even deciding to abandon the river and swim for a choice. But that's a whole other blog; for now, let us assume that we have the courage to stay in the water.
In the river, we must choose.
For instance, it's a choice to rely more on the life jacket than instinct and intuition; it's a choice not to wear a life jacket at all. It's a choice to pull others in need onto your raft and wrap them in warmth; it's a choice to push them back into the current if you should find that they wish to take more than you are willing to give; of course, how much you are willing to give is a choice, as well. It's a choice to use the oar, hand it off to someone else, or toss it away completely. We can choose to be the lifeguard or the drowning one; we can be the fish, the fishing pole, or the bait; we can be the rock or fallen tree; we can be the raft. Yet despite all of the infinite possibilities from which we have to choose, so many of us waste our time and potential trying to be the one thing that we simply cannot ever be: the river.
We can be OF the river, my friends, but that's the All that we get, and not only is it enough, it's more than any one of us can handle most of the time. In fact, we're so used to being overwhelmed that we fool ourselves into believing that if only we could be the flow itself, if only we could be the current, if only we could have all the control that the river has over its inhabitants, we could finally at peace...find stillness. We blindly play with this illogical thing, kneading it between mental hand and emotional fist, completely ignoring the simplest truth: rivers are motion. By their very nature they move, they change, and they challenge. Nobody climbs into a raft without expectations of the unpredictable, and if they do, they aren't paying attention. No one plunges into white-water without knowing that they are going to get really, really wet or without understanding that they're going to have to work almost too hard to avoid the looming obstacles accessorizing the river's natural flow. And even still, with this understanding and enormous exertion, the skilled rafter knows that not all obstacles will be avoided. The novice, on the other hand, will learn through observation, practice, collision, utter fear, hope, and reaction: all products of choice; each an impetus to choose. Yet no matter how skilled or unskilled we may be at manipulating life's current, we are never as skilled or unskilled as we think we are.
It is essential to note, too, that every bit of litter and waste with which we burden any river inevitably ends up in the same place. Just because you keep your own waters clean while contaminating someone else's, doesn't mean that you are free of the filth. There is but one source, one directional flow, and one ultimate destination.
Perhaps, though, the biggest detriment to all of this is hiding in the realization that inspite of - and as aptly put: BECAUSE of - the delicately designed and forged vessel of choice, the most important thing about the flow of life is: regardless of how many days we think we have left to either fight the current or float lazily along, time will always outrun the river, leaving us struck dumb when we are suddenly pushed out into the Ocean where the weight of that which we were unable to release will have to be considered, and