When I get stuck in a rut, it’s hard to get out. I try harder and harder, digging my wheels in my heels in, trying to find that secret passageway to China, to the other side where brightness lies. I dig doggedly in determination, and without even realizing it, I’m in a big, dark hole.
A dear friend just asked me how I break this kind of relentless focus when it’s leading me astray. “Break the focus?” I thought. But I thought focus was the goal? I thought that I could beat dissatisfaction with more focus, with
discipline, self-sacrifice, self-denial– you know, those healthy, fulfilling values taught to Protestant and Catholic children that make you feel so good about yourself every time you engage in them.
I asked the same friend if we’re allowed to pursue our passions without restrictions.
“Allowed?” she said, clearly puzzled.
Just imagine the possibilities if we allow ourselves to be ourselves, out loud and to the world. Marianne Williamsen is well-known for writing: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” It is not the darkness within that most scares us, but our blinding, blistering, scintillating light. This now-common proverb [a.k.a. [pro]found re[verb]eration of the soul) brings me comfort when I’m lost, and I’ve been a little lost lately. I’m starting to realize that being centered in generative power can still feel heavy, like being crushed under the magnitude of what I can’t see or understand. At first this troubled me, and then I took to some wordsmithing.
Magnitude. Magnetism. Electricity from opposites traveling through matter.
What does it matter? How do we matter? What is it about our matter, our essential makeup, our secret code that, depending on the invisible forces around us, can weigh a ton and suck us in and down and dry. Or it can launch us forward, flying flinging flung out amongst the stars, burning brighter and brighter, unable to find the friction to stop the momentum even if we wanted to.
Our basest matter–our deepest purpose–does not change. The atomic structure may develop, fusing and fissioning into brilliance and decay, but the fundamental particles will always be there.
So how are we supposed to separate all of these forces out? How are we supposed to make sense of the metaphysics, especially when this writer girl is imprecise with her scientific metaphors?? How are we supposed to observe and understand all of our internal reactions without relying on vision, our most saturated sensory perception?
There are many people who advocate an always-positive, always-chipper perspective on life. Optimism is powerful, there’s no doubt about that, but that’s not the whole story. True optimism comes from looking at the whole picture and fitting the pieces together in new, creative ways, including the bad. In that sense, there’s always been something about physics that’s alluring to me. It’s the wonder in seeing all of the reactions, even if they’re destructive. It’s appreciating the glory of a dying star.
There’s beauty in emptiness, in entropy, in consumptive fire. The flight of a phoenix is testimony enough. Humans still know so little about black holes, yet they’ve captivated scientists of all ages all over the world. They’re mysterious, of course, but their pull lies in something else: unfathomably dense collections of stardust. That’s right, stardust. The stuff of legends, the essence of the universe. The same matter we live with and through every day can also, at its finest state, coalesce into something totally beyond our understanding.
This trick of inversion is my troubleshooting offer this week. When extremes become too much to bear, there’s a point at which we can turn everything we know inside-out or upside-down, just for the delight of a new view. Since light cannot escape a black hole, then get dark, get deep, get dense and draw in the light until you can’t take it anymore… then flip through to the other side. It’s a trick of the light, a trick of the dark, and it can illuminate the illusion of a dead-end.