As a natural result of ‘flowing with the seasons’, winter brings
reflection. Inside by the fire, on a comfortable chair, it is
not my feet that voyage but my imagination, as it takes flight,
soaring beyond the mountain peaks that surround us. Often it is
an idea that sparks this reverie in this case I have been
considering ‘opportunity’ and how it may knock at our door,
changing forever the direction of our course, or equally, fall
from the sky as a surprise tumbles into our lap, and that is that.
Accepting what comes also changes ‘our tack’, thus the path we
may think we’re following often brings unexpected vistas.
Sometimes we can see the straight, yet often it is around the
next corner that something new lies in wait. When regarding
each footfall we can forget to look up. And at times it’s so
steep we must summon extra courage, the only thing we can’t
deny is ‘we know it’s leading somewhere’. We’re accustomed to
being the one who decides; the decision maker, the leader or
guide. The one with a map, armed with a plan knowing ‘which way’
because it leads to a destination; one we’ve chosen carefully
because we think it fills our needs, by way of a goal or achievement.
Hesitation has little space when we set out on the road, keeping
a brisk pace, yet the more we plot our course with fixed points
the less we discover, for it may be likened to ‘wearing blinkers’.
We know the expression ‘it is not the destination but the journey’
and are familiar with how things can change overnight – how even
the best laid plans can find a spanner in the works – there are
many examples of those who were meant to be on a plane and
narrowly escaped tragedy, or were subject to forces that
‘interfered with arrangements’. We judge these experiences
‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on how they relate to our interests
and the ideas we might have had, at times pushing our way
forward when obstacles present themselves or forging another
channel – cutting through a rock face as we carve a tunnel.
Determination wins through; sheer willpower overcomes odds that
can be stacked against us – ‘man can move mountains’ has been
the catchcry for centuries.
Yet a river gently erodes stone away, following a natural course,
guided by the elements of nature at work, which help to shape it
and are ever changing. After heavy rain there is a great surge,
and in drought, a tiny gurgle that barely advances: adaptation
in response to the environment. A previous path may dry up
altogether, and a new one take-off in another direction. All the
while, leading to the same place, eventually the ocean where
all the tributaries join as the veins that carry this life force
converge as one and lose their identity, without changing substance,
becoming part of a collective that is infinitely larger than a drop,
a trickle or a running stream – as part of a tide, a current or sea
– embracing salt as a distant cousin, Evaporating and falling as
rain, only to begin the journey again, in another region with
new terrain. Adapting, continuing; enduring as life changes
form from liquid to vapour, or mist – reborn.
Without ‘thought’ for we acknowledge these ‘processes at work’
happen automatically: they are programmed as part of a highly
intelligent management system that governs all resources. What can
we learn from this analogy, that the ancients who have long since
vanished understood, yet have not been able to teach us? That we
too are ‘bound to the same agreement’, or subject to the same
forces, we’ve just forgotten how to surrender to them.
Surrender, let go, releasing control; this is well outside of
our comfort zone when we operate in fight or flight mode.
Life has schooled us to accept the worst, that letting go means
failure because we do not ‘assert’ – that bobbing hopelessly
on a current we will sink, for swimming is the only way to
safety. Feeble is associated with release, drifting aimlessly
is irresponsible – accepting what comes without a fight, meek,
or weak. Letting others trample all over us if ‘competition’ is
not met by hunger; not living to our potential if we won’t take
up reins and steer our chariot in the direction of ‘gain’ for
victory is ours when we’ve made it through battles – what’s
won has been truly deserved.
Instinct, we might say, serves in different ways – it can inform
us about the enemy or help us set up camp – and inspiration is our
ally. We navigate by making choices; either weighing up the odds
or listening to inner voices. Sometimes it is clear and we take
a chance, at other times a warning comes and stops our advance
– we might err on the side of caution or predict an avalanche –
yet the heart of the matter, the essential truth, can often remain
buried under a pile of beliefs, which appear in turn or take the
form of excuses, or mask the true path, as our decision-making
faculties are coloured by ‘experiences to date’, cultural differences
and our vision of the world – the view ‘from our eyes’ does not
encompass 360º or equal peripheral, whereas ‘life’ as a force that
is all-seeing, all-knowing, or everywhere, is not easily ‘summed up’
from a chair.
All-pervading intelligence doesn’t fit within a framework or find
an adequate vocabulary to express its infinite attributes – we can
only grasp the concept and try to get our head around it – the grand
plan, the big bang, the one, the all, the essence of every living
breathing organism and minutest speck, invisible or visible energy
we have only just begun to measure. The only thing we might agree
is that this ‘category’ is open to new discovery as we evolve in
understanding through our daily interaction with the world around us.
Making our way like tiny ants, as we go about the tasks we have set
for ourselves, or following the traces that are already well worn,
or perhaps, the straggler from the group who is left behind, or
the unlucky few, caught and trampled on. As a result of the
choices we have made, or our responses to circumstances, we find
ourselves in a colony, working away whatever our goal, for even
in retirement we don’t sit still and contemplate – there is so
much to live, to appreciate.
Taking a step, one far removed, changing our point of view to that
of observer, what can we deduce? Imagining we are watching the race
of an ant farm in action – is it not astounding? The constant movement
as energy is spent; stockpiling food and supporting loads so much
greater than their own body weight, these little insects fascinate
with their systems of communication and cooperation – organising
resources for the whole community, ensuring its continuation.
Every one pulls together as a unit, for all actions serve the created
structure and enable young to emerge, as life ensures life on this
Yet is we take a cross section of our society, what would we see?
Many ants serving private interests and scattered, broken into little
clusters, perhaps even unaware of their closest neighbours. A musician
in a corner playing happily, with fans gathered round and a lull in
productivity – entire individual cells of ants on computers, walled
off from their brothers and sisters as they connect with others in
remote colonies, equally isolated. Each little segment out for
themselves; left to their own devices as the structure fails to
provide for the ‘whole’, simply because efforts are directed elsewhere
– the ‘cohesive’ principle has been compromised and energies are not
feeding the collective.
It is all very well to have an example, we can picture it and even
laugh, adding a myriad scenarios for we are capable of embellishing
this vision and coming up with our own version. Yet tying up loose
ends, we must ask the question, “How do I serve life, the one that
sustains me?” Have I chartered my own course, deciding how I may best
be of service, or is there room in my belief system to turn this concept
on its head and to say, “What has life chosen for me?” instead.
Given the fact that we cannot explain all that occurs or happens
– only come to terms with it – what if everything is merely going to
plan and trying to steer us? In spite of our own interferences as we
go off on tangents and are then, through a series of events, brought
back to the true path. The one we can’t see, yet can learn to feel
– if we put our map aside and let judgement quieten, and from a
silent space allow our instincts to emerge and dictate, even if it
We can truly exclaim ‘all is going to plan’ when we can’t see the
straight road ahead, and instead of expecting ‘danger’ around each
bend, welcome new friends with open arms, and unexpected events
– navigating only by ‘sense’. ‘Does this feel right’, in other words,
good or lighter; or heavy, like dread? Treading our way with our
eyes raised to greet sunny days, that illuminate the way that has
been waiting for us, for it bears our name, and knows what we love,
thus holds many treasures – as proof to reassure us ‘that all is in
fact perfect’ as we stop seeking and open our eyes to accept what
is already before us.
If we think of it as a ‘role to play’ – a unique contribution rather
than asking for credentials – the only challenge that remains is
‘are we ready to believe it’ and surrender to this ‘guiding force’ that
may be ignored but will not go away, for there is always a choice.
Gong Xi Fa Cai, Gong Hei Fat Choi.
Happy Chinese New Year, as we follow the serpentine path,
wherever it chooses to lead us.