For those of you who follow Project Conversion regularly, you know what the Lumber River is and why I visit. The river is my holy ground, a sanctuary, my spiritual forge…
A black, winding, mirror.
I’m going to the river this morning to prepare for the last half of this year. This month, June, is not what I expected. I was not ready for its challenges. In fact, the whole month is a shadow of what the end of the year will look like. As with any adventure however, the hero often faces his first great test far before he is ready.
June is truly a void, the Fringe. I lost my spiritual compass and while I believe I navigated the churning waves fairly well, I know things are different.
Something happened yesterday which punctuated this reality.
My walking staff, a steady companion for nearly three years, snapped in half.
What are some attributes of a walking staff?
- Help with balance
Perhaps yours bears additional meaning, and once mine cracked in half, the symbology of the act galvanized my feeling for the whole month. My temper returned this month, my impatience reared its ugly head…I felt the old me rising to the surface and I believe it’s because I was unexpectedly rudderless this month.
Each religion thus far provided what my now broken staff once did: Balance, protection, guidance. I am a spiritual rogue, but I’m not ready complete independence yet. There is so much to learn and master, so much ground to explore.
I need two things now in order to continue this journey:
- A new staff
- To face myself
I will perform both of these tasks at the river. The black, still water is like a curved obsidian blade. Will I be able to face what I see? Will I find a worthy staff to bring me out of the dark swamp? I don’t know. What I do know is that I cannot leave the river until I complete the task (or until my wife bugs me to come home). I’m not going to discover enlightenment, the divine, or some great spiritual experience/truth. That doesn’t mean I reject these as possible useful phenomena. What it means is that I’m going for one simple reason: clarity.
The clarity of emptiness. Anything else is gravy.
I want to start July as if it were January. A clean slate. Pure and ready for inscription from the months ahead.
This is my Jesus in the desert, Siddhartha under the bodhi tree, Baha’u'llah in the Black Pit, the Hindu rishis in the wilderness, Zarathushtra in the wilderness. The rest of the year depends upon success at the dark waters.
I don’t know what will happen. I can’t promise that I’ll emerge fully inspired with light and wisdom shining from my head, no doubt causing vehicular accidents on my way home. Maybe I’ll sink into the swamp like the great mendicants of the East, never seen again. Perhaps aliens will abduct me as I sit by the river (hopefully there’s a decent internet connection on the ship so I can update the Facebook Page) and show me the cosmos.
Whatever happens, I will emerge fundamentally changed. I go in with nothing, and through the crucible of facing myself in the river, come out with the clarity to finish this year.
And with a deep breath and plenty of bug spray, I’m gone. Don’t wait up.