'The birds don't know which way to go,
and my friend, neither do I'
So runs the lyric from a Peter Hamill song called The Birds. Its notable, because birds do have a strong instinct for where to go. It causes them to migrate, or find upward air currents that will take them further and faster than flapping wings alone would do. In the sky, says Dogen, 'birds are life', the sky is an inexhaustible resource and our relationship with the world we inhabit, is the same. On the retreat, I wrote about this by using the metaphor of a boat on a river.
12th December 2013
All lives are like rivers, a bubbly spurt of activity at first, getting lost in wide meanderings as if we have all the time in the world, broadening out into wider estuaries and broader stretches of water, ever widening until what is river and what is ocean is completely indiscernible.
Rather than struggle to keep up with its pace, I climb aboard a motor boat. I've come to a bend in the river where its all plain sailing, you let the river take you on, to wherever the delta or mouth is. The mouth where you are eaten. The delta where you fragment into a thousand rivulets, spread out like blue veins on an old hand. To get on board a motor boat here, would seem inappropriate. Silly to not make the most of the journey. To hurry towards another destiny, would be ludicrous for a man of my age.
The 'lust for life' shouldn't be confused with the 'thrust of youth'. Middle aged lust, is for greater authenticity, a more honest integrity, a simpler relationship between ones desires and their fulfillment, uncluttered by the obstacles and encumbrances of ones childhood enthusiasms and naive ambitions. There is a return to the essential root of who you think you are, no longer mediated through ones parents hopes for you, societies demands or expectations of you, or self deluded daydreams. Life is too short for that now. No excess baggage is allowed.
I'm coming to see life as this thing I come into alignment with. When you put a boat on a river, take away the paddles, take away the sail, take away the outboard motor, so it will drift with the current of the river. A boat can't help but do that, if we let it alone. We are so used to thinking our lives need steering or better propulsion of some kind. Sure a boat will hit choppy waters, lose momentum, get stuck or even sink, but that is what a boat on a river is like.
Its never going to be plain sailing. in this respect we aren't the Captain of our ship, more the servant of it. The more we try to steer it, to make it go our way, the more turbulence we leave in our wake. The more we cut a swathe through the water with the prow of our boat, the more out of touch with the river we become. Life becomes about setting directions, goals and achievement, imposing the will of our ego upon the river. Rivers are not inexhaustible, they dry up, they break their banks and flood, they stagnate, become dangerous places. If we're not aware, not aligned, we'll see none of this coming. we might just find ourselves beached up somewhere.