"The only things that concerned the sheep were food and water... They’ve forgotten how to rely on their own instinct, because I lead them to nourishments." - Santiago the shephard boy hero on page 7, The Alchemist
In the bestselling fable, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho (full audio) opens as the Andalusian shephard Santiago deciding to follow a vague hunch pieced from a night dream with hesitation, and eventually wherever it may lead.
For beings with a heart pulsing to the tune of the Infinite Eternal and a spark of life burning within them, food and water become insufficient as nourishment. Hunger and thirst isn't only a matter of matter.
As I write this in early February, the sunlight peaceably filters and palm trees sway through and outside the windows in New Orleans. I have the knowledge of the security of future supply of the basics of water, food, and the welcomed stay to caretake rent-free here as long and languidly as I wish.
It has been an unexpected sojourn this past year -- an inward plunge into sublime solitude. Although I wrote of impending adventure, that's not at all what unfolded. There were a few season of pruning and weeding everything second-hand and unoriginal and untrue.
A season of feeding and nurturing the malnourished. Time and space in the sensory rather than the virtual. Chopping carrots, mincing garlic, sauteeing kale, stirring miso, steaming salmon and gathering at the oval dinner table at an old landlord's home with a cancer diagnosis rather than checking Twitter feeds. Reading The Little Prince on the grass in the little neighborhood pocket park with the lumbering live oak and swing rather than reading my email.
Now, you'd think, should be a good time to sit back and simply enjoy the upcoming Mardi Gras festivities. There's no rationale to go anywhere, do anything different. In fact there is the subtle lull of inertia to remain.
Although I typically have the house all to my self, a houseload of street performers and musicians tumbled in and out the last two months. In the midst of the bustle, I carved out sacred time to be still and listen. In that silence, the raw fragments of surrender cohered and crystallized into the fragrance of the next step. This verse jumped vivid for me, and has riveted my attention:
"Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland." - Bible (NIV), Isaiah 43:18-19
Comfort aside, I cannot deny the higher, wider, more blazing, beckoning pull. “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down," said Kurt Vonnegut. The day BEFORE the coalescing crescendo into clarity, viscerally I felt the intensity of ego terror before the cliff of the Unknown: the heart constricted, the throat strangled, the breath short, the air dense and thick, the clenching what-ifs of the finite.
"The comfort zone is supposed to keep your life safe, but what it really does is keep your life small.... A few rare individuals refuse to live limited lives... They have something that gives them the strength to endure pain--a sense of purse.... A sense of purpose doesn't come from thinking about it. It comes from taking action that moves you toward the future. The moment you do this, you activate a force more powerful than the desire to avoid pain. We call this the 'Force of Forward Motion.' Its power is the power of life itself. Everything in life is evolving into the future with a sense of purpose--from a single organism to a species to the entire planet. Dylan Thomas called it "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower."” - The Tools, by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels
Even with the immense discomfort of fear, the green fuse that drives the flower kept on fulfilling life.
Ten years ago EXACTLY today, February 6, 2014, I commenced this Crossroads Dispatches blog. It's not my first blog. It's not my second either. The first I began on Dave Winer's Rdio platform, the second was called The Bigger Picture on Blogger. I abandoned both. We've had ups and downs, but I think the reason this one struck a chord is the thematic and name "Crossroads Dispatches" speaks to my deep draw for multi-layered meanings and High Romance (I read three versions of the Arthurian legends of the Round Table in 2013) even though at the time of this blog's founding I was ensconced in logic rather than lyricism. (It's easy to forget I was formerly a computer engineer, even when others do not so easily forget.)
My first post and fifth blog post cited this book and quote:
"In Africa, they say there are two hungers, the lesser hunger and the greater hunger. The lesser hunger is for the things that sustain life, the goods and services, and the money to pay for them, which we all need. The greater hunger is for an answer to the question "why?", for some understanding of what that life is for." - Hungry Spirit, Beyond Capitalism: A Quest for Purpose in the Modern World, Charles Handy (via very first Crossroads Dispatches blog post I wrote 10 years ago)
Someone once asked Helen Keller a provocative question. She answered, "What would be worse than being born blind? To have sight without vision." Concern for sheer survival alone feels like a tedious ministering to death. Survival needs are not a compelling vision. Perhaps there's a kernel of usefulness in them: "I need a job." -- What if instead of seeking provision from others, we were the creators of provision for others? Imagine opportunities to thrive for ourselves + together, junto, with others. "I need money." -- What if rather than compromise and cage our inspiration for wages, we unleashed our gifts unto the world? etc, etc. Flip the tedium of needs and problems and duty into desires and destinies (destinations) that catapult into captivating and enchanting and fulfillling visions to follow through.
"... don't be satisfied with stories, how things
have gone with others. Unfold
your own myth, without complicated explanation,
so everyone will understand the passage,
We have opened you.
Start walking toward Shams. Your legs will get heavy
and tired. Then comes a moment
of feeling the wings you've grown,
lifting." - Rumi (via Howardism.org)
Despite the immense shield of fear, the green fuse keeps sprouting through and as me. I breathe deep and I buy the one-way ticket to San Francisco this past Sunday. I wasn't planning on California in 2014 whatsoever yet that's where all the calls and clews whispered to me. Even Paulo Coelho's most recent Feb 5th post reveals a stepping stone in the path I'm walking which is more unusual, more unnerving, more daring than I'm letting on. Our clues are tailored and unique, yet I'll share it with you: "... behind the icy mask people wear - there is a heart of fire. That is why the warriors risk more than others."
A rush of release follows as the overlay of fear dissolves into its no-thingness revealing the foreground of peace and joy. Since that decision other contorted contractions have emerged in the simple spaciousness as it fathoms and figures out How, yet the Yes remains and shines in the foreground.
"When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises. In order to find the treasure, you will have to follow the omens. God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left you." - Paulo Coelho
This spring I'm planting a seed of vision.
Perhaps you'll join me in the garden. It's free (and freedom) online. Or join face-to-face in a "Innovating to the Heart's Delight" workshop in the San Francisco Bay Area (a work in progress--so don't be surprised if the content completely kaleidoscopes in a few days), or come walk-the-talk journey with us into Spain this summer or Ethiopia this fall.
It's not solely mine or your own Personal Legend coming into ripeness, but widens inclusive of the whole cosmic pulsing symphony of which you are part.
The reply is simple. I have tried. But with the others I have not been successful. When I made the drawing of the baobabs I was carried beyond myself by the inspiring force of urgent necessity." -
“Run my dear,
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.”
p.s. This post is slowly easing us into a new tone, a new voice for this blog. Similar themes yet with more of our bold, whimsical, fantastical, imaginative, visionary, slightly futuristic "a new heaven and a new earth" facets revealed.
Art credits: Saharan caravan photo from fan blog, "The Journey of Santiago"; illustration from The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (an online version of The Little Prince book); photo by Ankur Sharma via DeviantArt.com; and lastly, the baobab tree illustration from The Little Prince as well.