Not making light of the shadows

silhouette-of-person-holding-glass-mason-jar-1274260

Over the past few days I’ve been busy binge watching Songland. From where I stand, it feels like a master class on songwriting. Not only do I get to hear constructive criticism from some of the top writer/producers in the music industry, I also get to see how they transform good songs into great songs.

One particular concept hits close to home. One Republic’s Ryan Tedder summed it up in a word – duality. I think of it in terms of Yin Yang philosophy where Yang is present in Yin and Yin is present in Yang. Each has an element of the other within it. In life the brightest light often casts the deepest shadow, and without the contrast we might never recognize it for what it is. This has always been a struggle for me. Not only with music, but in any form of creation. As an Enneagram seven, I prefer to live in bright places and, pun intended, make light of the shadows.

I’m learning. In order to make the beautiful ideas more than pure idealism, I have to expose the pain and hurt that makes it real. It requires honesty and vulnerability. Not only with my readers or listeners, but first with myself. It isn’t easy, but I believe it is necessary. That kind of honesty is where shared experience sets the stage so that great ideals have a chance to become real in the lives of others. It brings the divine into the realm of mortals so that maybe, just maybe, we allow it change our lives.

The Journey of the Free

stocksnap_ifvsspvrhs.jpg

“I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.”

Red, The Shawshank Redemption

If you’ve ever tuned a guitar, you’ll know that when the string is in pitch you can hear the other strings resonate with it. When I heard this quote yesterday, I felt a deep resonance.

To put it in context, you have to understand the importance of hope in The Shawshank Redemption. At first, Andy is warned off by Red. “Hope is dangerous,” he says. “Hope can drive a man insane.” For those who aren’t familiar, these are the words of a man who has long been a prisoner. You may be able to identify. I know there have been times in my life where it seemed wiser to abandon hope and simply accept my present existence, painful as it may be. I am thankful. To date, I’ve never manged to abandon hope.

Neither did Andy. His words, written in a letter left for Red, give voice to the life he lived prior to his escape. He writes, “Hope is a good thing, may be the best of things, and no good thing every dies.” I think that these words were a lifeline to Red who chooses to act on them by breaking his parole and going to meet Andy in Mexico. He exercises the right of a free man. The right to choose. It reminds me of words I heard many years ago. There is but one thing no man can take from us, our right to choose.

It is on this journey to Mexico that he utters the words that prefaced this post. Those words continue filled with hope for his future. “I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”

I am reminded that freedom, real freedom, does not guarantee us an outcome, only a journey. Not every hope will be fulfilled. Pain and suffering will also await us on the road, but the journey is ours. And while the conclusion of the journey may be uncertain, it is an adventure filled with excitement and hope. Excitement at the thought of what lay ahead, and hope for the fulfillment of our dreams.

Such is the journey of the free. I hope that you are living yours as I am striving to live mine. May we all find courage to set our feet to the path, hope to keep us on it, and the “excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.”

So, where will you go?

In the flow

Wednesday night I received an unexpected gift. It began with what I believe to be an act that flowed from who I am. Nothing I would consider profound or special, just thoughts from a lingering conversation given voice. For once, normal doubts had no weight and I spoke these words of encouragement. I never guessed I would get an immediate response, let alone what would follow. What had been set in motion, even before I said a word, left me in awe.

I tried to engage more deeply, to put into words my excitement for what another person would set in motion. And I couldn’t. Try as I might, I had no words. Nothing seemed big enough to encompass what had happened. I had but one thing to share. My heart was full! Even now, I am filled with gratitude and a sense of awe. Thankful to have stepped into God’s stream and excited to see where it flows.

In the end, though I may not ever understand fully, I found these words in my last journal entry that helped me see the power of identity and being to lead us into the dance.

“The truest me seems to erupt most readily from thoughtlessness, from a point of emptiness beyond the doubts of conscious thought. I often only recognize him in hindsight, as an observer who sees the past. A statement, a text, a conversation, a moment recognizable as true self as seen from afar. I long to live in this state of being, this state of ‘me’. Something to think more on and strive for. It is fearless. Courageous. It is bigger than doubts. Because it just is. … This may just be me waxing philosophical for the sake of ego, but I do believe living in my identity brings assurance and strength of character. Enough so to overcome the doubt inherent in my broken humanity and give me hope. Hope for a future, for opportunity, and, probably more importantly, honesty and authenticity when opportunity arises.”

I wonder if these true self moments are the times I am closest to God. They are certainly the times I am closest to who He created me to be. And for just a moment, he let me see the results of His handiwork.

And you know the best part of it all?

Knowing that it has very little to do with me. The most amazing things He set in motion are His glory in another and I can’t wait to see what comes of it!

Discovery

20190727_122937

I pulled into the parking garage, picked a spot and settled back to listen to one more song. I reached for the keys, took a glance at the clock and laughed.

I had an hour to kill.

I snatched up my new book and left the garage. The day was warm. Not the usual choking heat of late July, but a milder heat. Almost comfortable. I glanced around for a place to camp and quickly found it. A tree and two benches sat amidst a riot of color and sculptures at Overton Square.

I managed at least ten minutes in the shade before my mind began to wander and I gave up all hope of making any headway in my book. So I lay down, a closed book for a pillow.

And a new world opened up before me.

For a few minutes I simply enjoyed the colors. The mural was not new to me, but I had never taken the time to do more than casually take it in. Today, I drank it in, and when I’d had my fill. I checked my eyelids for holes.

My attempted nap didn’t last long. Closing my eyes only freed my mind to wander wildly about in frantic thoughts and unanswerable questions. My eyes returned to the mural, and with it, to the painted reliefs in the brick wall next to it. On then to the bare whiff of a cloud standing bright white against the sky. I tried in vain to make some image of the sparse cloud, but if any dragons or faeries resided there, they had no intention of revealing themselves to me.

I tried to rest again, only to be interrupted soon after by a sudden brightness. The orange glow behind lidded eyes turned a bright yellow and I scowled at the glare penetrating the leaves of my not so adept guardian. I examined his leaves and the large number of gaps through which the light danced.

After a time, my eyes returned to the mural with its bright colors, only to discover him staring out from the window in unremarked black and white, the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. He looked out on the rest of us wine in hand, untouchable and imperturbable. I wondered at what he might be about and may have found my answer in the shocked expressions of the Seussian children staring out their nearby window in shock. I checked my own surroundings, but whatever set them on edge had little to do with me.

Checking my watch I found I still had ten minutes left until my appointed meeting, so I tried to drift off once again. It didn’t last. I promptly gave up and rose. I looked one last time upon my mural, for now I surely felt a bit of ownership in it, and discovered that fluorescent flowers had sprouted beneath Hitchcock’s window.

In the end, my unexpected hour held a lesson for me. I had taken the mural for granted. It wasn’t until I took time to return to it again and again, forced or otherwise, that I truly began to see it. And with every return it held something new.

I wonder what I’ll find next time.