Sunday, September 14, 2014
My Hands Shall
My feet shall not falter
The voyage shall not weary
The fear shall not alter
- Robert Plant, Rainbow
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What can I say to you, my best beloved, that you need to hear? What story can I tell that will help you to set down your burden and find some ease, some peace, some measure of the happiness each of us craves? I can point you in any direction and find a story that echoes the hope you and I still believe in: the riddle answered, the path made clear. But it will be echo only, the reverberating voices of the ones who have come this way before us. They call out their trials and triumphs in song and poetry and legend and story and art and the work they put themselves to while there was time for them to do so.
They make us less alone, help us to be brave enough to carry on.
You know this is true. Stories are talismans, touchstones we rely on to find in the doings and deeds of others the line that connects us to them and so emboldens us to bear what must be borne and be able to dance as if it were no burden.
I litter this place with stories hoping you will find one that rhymes with something inside you. Sometimes these stories are deeply personal to me, other times I see in them a beauty I have not known before, still other stories arrive without volition and insist upon being heard. If there is one story that moves through them all, that has a part to play in each is the story of the road, of the hard road, the journey and the voyage out, away from what is known into realms unknown and unimagined before being set out on the road.
Joyce called it the monomyth.
Campbell called it The Hero's Journey.
I just call it the road.
If your life is be unfucked, you have to hit the road - your road. If you find yourself on a path already marked, that is not your road. The stories that come back to us are not maps to follow, but exhortations to get started on our own. The only value a story has is in telling you others have ventured it, not in giving you step by step instructions.
* * *
Here is what I know: you are already on the road. The length of your life is the length of your road. You can dismiss the idea out of hand, but it doesn't alter the fact that from your birth-cry to your death rattle you are on the road to find out what it is like to be you in this time and place. A fucked life is still a life on the road. It is just stuck, run out of gas, stalled. But the road does not retreat under your feet, but waits instead for you to use it. Make no mistake, you can stall and dither and remain stuck your entire life and never find out how much road you could have taken on. This is so. This is so. This is so. But there is also this truth: if you breathe then you can take on more road at any time. This isn't one of those ideas that belongs solely to the young, but belongs to any one who draws breath and wants to see what happens next.
I an 54. I've have been on the road a while. I have seen great chunks of the world, had the world pour gifts out over my head like falling rain, and I have been lost in a dark wood wandering, fucked and stuck and going nowhere. In the monomyth you are called out of your contentment, your known and prescribed community and put into unfamiliar circumstances. The call is often made by dark forces, malevolence, fright. On the road you are aided by guides and spirits you would not have believed existed before encountering them and after a series of trials you achieve the goal, acquire the boon, the chalice, the grail, the knowledge and must return home, out of this otherworldly realm, and bring the gift back to those who need it most: the ones you said good-bye to. A few weeks ago, I realized I could go home. The particular trials and challenges that shoved me out onto the road had offered up their gifts to me after 7 years. A new set awaits me - getting home, but the thing that always knifed me was the sense that old men don't get to go home, that this adventure was better held 30 years ago, that all of this talk about journeys and guides and the seemingly dark nature of the initial call out of the confines of your once ordinary life belonged to others and not me for I had waited too long to get started.
Well, that's bullshit. You hit the road or recognize you are on it when you are ready to see it. There is no timetable to waking up. It is always nigh. I was 47 when the shit was kicked out of me. I'd had the shit kicked out of me previously, but I didn't see it for what it was - a chance to wake up - and I slid by it hoping I could avoid ever dealing with it. That sort of thing never goes away and at some point you have to thrash it out. I waited and part of the trick bag I put myself in was: yeah, I see it now, but it's too late. I'm too old. Again, bullshit. That was one of the last lessons I had to learn. It is always being nigh, my love. Always nigh.
The last shall be first and the first shall be last because we worked harder for it and "it" being whatever it was that called you out and into your life. And even though others may have had the grace to manage all this sooner, even though the pain may have been crazy-making, wisdom doesn't come to those who never struggle, but to those who overcome, who understand the obstacle is the way they must go, who dance in front of their sorrows.
* * *
One last thing: that dark call, the malevolent spirit, the demon that set you out alone - unsteady, uncertain and afraid - was no demon, but metaphorically, an angel come to save your life. Even if, especially if they had no such sense of themselves and harm was all they wished to bring. I can tell you that all day long and it won't matter until you see it for yourself.
We each have work to do and a road to travel. This is part of that work for me and I am glad for it.
* * *
And I will sing my song for you
And I will carry on.
* * *