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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