Wisdom Games

At the moment I am staying overnight at the Whidbey Institute here in Washington State, a retreat facility hidden away in the woods an hour or so from Seattle.

It is late dusk, and a light spring rain is falling over the darkening forest that surrounds the place. Deer, like shadows, walk the lawns under the ancient greening apple trees. All is quiet except for the frogs down the hill and a few last birds — and it all reminds me, must remind me of Goethe’s famous poem, translated by Robert Bly:

Over all the hilltops
Among all the treetops
You feel hardly
A breath moving.
The birds fall silent in the woods.
Simply wait! Soon
You too will be silent.

After such a poem how can anything else be said?

There has been too little time to meditate lately. Too many complications, bills, deadlines. In the midst, a note from a colleague saying an acquaintance has cancer. A client resigns his job — after years of working to make it work. A friend finds herself embroiled in unfair legal/financial difficulties that could kill her career but commits with transcendent faith to just keep going.

Add to this dark mixture a few beautiful days in the desert with a loving crew of friends. A daughter’s birthday, a son’s graduation from college and departure for another country. And suddenly, yes, it is all that midlife smoke and mirrors stuff again without the slightest hope of making sense. There’s just the transience of it all. The absolutely momentary nature of this, that, and this again, repeating in a rhythm that drags the heart round like a string pulled by a cat on a tear.

There is a part of me that is still and happy — profoundly happy. And there is a part that is embroiled in the complexities and has no answers at all. What on earth am I doing writing these things — when so much of what I see here on the net is given to providing answers, competing for the best, smartest answers — when the only real, meaningful answers come from deep within and have no words at all?

Man, we’re all trying to be an authority in one way or another. Me, too, and it’s a cosmic drag.

The frogs down the hill, like those in Aristophanes’s ancient comedy, mock us. And like Dionysus in the play, dressed in a lion-hide, we can’t decide whether we are better off or not impersonating a hero.

Still we keep trying. Hoping.

Thinking we’ve got it all figured out, this time.

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