The kids and I have just been watching the nature series on the BBC about Thailand which focuses on the link between humans, spirituality as well as nature. We were watching a woman wading through lotus fields when youngest son asked why the lotus is part of Buddhism.
The commentary explained it as; ‘out of the darkness, will be light’; which I like, but for me there is more than that.
The lotus is rooted in mud, in slime, in silt, in shit. It has it’s roots there and without that they could not rise through the waters to blossom in the light.
In my life, the times when I have learned the most, or gained any wisdom, is in the shit. It has been in the losses, the heartaches, the discomfort, the lack of money, the lack of love, the lack of time, the fear, the humiliation, the shame, the failure and the loneliness that I have learned my biggest lessons.
When we are in the shit, we have 2 choices; to pretend that we aren’t, ignore it and pretend that nothing has changed and that nothing is wrong. When we do this we weaken the very system that feeds us and makes us strong.
Or we can decide to see what the grime and slime of our lives are trying to teach us. We can stick our fingers into the goo to see what we can pull out that will help us grow stronger and straighter and more in line with who we are meant to be.
We can make that choice.
But who likes to be up to their elbows in shit as we search for what it is we have to gain from the pain?
You have done this. I have done this. We will continue to do this.
Because in the crucible of shame and pain and suffering, some more of our pretenses, our ego, our pride, our aloofness, our judgement, our prejudice, our vanity, our greed, our need to be right and to make you wrong are burned away.
When faced with dark times, with sadness and with disappointment we have a choice. We get to decide if we will use this experience to grow stronger roots and to let go of our facades and fakeness. Or we can moan and complain and blame other people and avoid the learning and pretend everything is the same as it ever was and thus we grow a harder shell so our flower looks bright but our roots are weaker.
We may not have a choice about what has happened to us and what is happening to us, but we always have a choice about how we think about it and respond to it.
So when men and women took to the streets after Trump’s inauguration; they were making a choice. They did not chose to stick their heads in the sand and pretend nothing had changed. They did not imagine that everything would be OK or that someone else would sort it out. They did not minimize it and decide there was nothing to fuss about.
They decided on what mattered to them, and they declared their values and they took action. They got to decide.
What will you decide?
I wrote this blog and then read Elizabeth Gilbert’s facebook post and loved it:
‘I want to try to bring you comfort and courage — without making light of the truly alarming situation that we now face in the world. Because it is true: This is some seriously scary business. A dangerous man is about to be given an enormous amount of power.
Now, this is not the first time in history that such a situation has occurred. Dangerous men will always try to take enormous amounts of power; it’s what dangerous men DO. It never goddamn stops.
But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this line from John Steinbeck:
“I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. Humans are caught — in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity, too — in a net of good and evil. THERE IS NO OTHER STORY.”
This is the one and only story of human life on earth. Which means: There will always be darkness and evil.
I don’t know. (That’s God’s business, and I stay out of God’s business.)
But I do know one thing:
Darkness and evil ALWAYS have an interesting side-effect.
Darkness and evil ALWAYS give opportunities for heroes to rise.
Which brings us to the question of Harry Potter — who I have also been thinking about a lot over the past few weeks. Please remember this simple example: Without Voldemort, Harry Potter is a very ordinary boy. Without the terrifying challenges of darkness and evil, Harry never would’ve had the opportunity to find his own power, his own strength, his own leadership, and his own magic.
This is just as true for your life as it was for Harry’s. Without the presence of darkness and evil in your life, you will never be challenged to know your own goodness and courage.
And if you want to look at this question from outside the realm of children’s literature (fair enough!), here are some examples from real and painful human history:
Without the darkness and evil of segregation, Rosa Parks is a completely unremarkable seamstress.
Without the darkness and evil of institutionalized American racism, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is just a regular Baptist preacher.
Without the darkness and evil of British Colonialism, Gandhi is just another unsuccessful local barrister.
Without the darkness and evil of the Soviet Bloc, Vaclav Havel is just another random playwright.
Without the darkness and evil of apartheid, Nelson Mandela is just another law student, working as a night watchman to pay his bills.
Without the darkness and evil of militaristic oppression in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi is just another well-educated wife and mother from a nice family.
You see where I’m going with this?
Darkness will always rise — to be sure.
But a hero of the light will ALSO always rise.
I know this to be true without a doubt, because THERE IS NO OTHER STORY.
We have a choice now. You have a choice now. You can cower in fear, or you can rise up in light.
So…who will our next Harry Potter be?
I want it to be you.
I want it to be me.
I want it to be US.