Friday, January 25, 2013

Insofar As That I Can See

Yesterday I came across a famous quote, a paraphrase of a line from a Robert Frost poem:  "The only way out is through."  It was attributed to someone I know did not speak it originally. She may have used it, like so many of us have, but it did not originate with her.  It was fascinating to see the comments posted beneath -- "L. Ron Hubbard said that, but before him, I don't know."  "That's a line from an Alanis Morissette song."   Someone else thought it was a quote from the Buddha. 

Just for fun, I googled the quote and discovered that it has been used in song lyrics by another female artist, and as the name of an album by another.  I found two art exhibits with this title and one sculpture.  There was a tattoo advertised by a tattoo artist and a hand-lettered t-shirt, both misquoting Robert Frost who actually worded it slightly differently.

There was a Psychology Today article with this quote as its title and about a gazillion blog posts. Articles by life coaches.  A few pieces by writers offering this as good advice to budding word smiths.  It was even dialogue in a video game.  Most of the blogs and articles were about perseverance, dealing with pain, fear, illness, grief, and life transitions of all kinds.  There was an article about being productive in business. My favorite was an article about a 12th Century Indian poet, mystic, and saint - a woman - Akka Mahadevi.

He says the best way out is always through.
And I agree to that, or insofar
As that I can see no way out but through --
Leastways for me -- and then they'll be convinced.

"The only way out is through."  "The best way out is always through."  I prefer the original.  And I think I prefer it for the same reason that the woman who is telling her story in the poem does -- that I can see no way out but through...what other way is there?  Hence, the paraphrase.  What I really like about the original is I get to discover it for myself. No one tells me it's the way it has to be. 

That's an important part of the spiritual journey and core to waking up -- discovering the great and deepest truths through one's own experience. You can read ten thousand books by a thousand masters and see all the wisdom of the ages on the page before you, but what really matters is embodied experience.  This is the way to wisdom. 

Of course, just being does not bring us to wisdom.  We can move through life unconsciously or we can be conscious as we move through life.  Some ancient cultures describe warriorship - the way of the warrior - in terms of mindfulness and consciousness, showing up and choosing to be present.  Present to our own lives, our own experience, to each moment, thought, and feeling, and to others and the world around us.  That enables us to see.  Seeing enables us to move through the world without the blinders that sometimes enable us to get through difficult times by simply moving through something any way we can, distracting ourselves with being busy, so that we don't have to think about, feel, or see.  Not everyone would agree with me about this -- for many people distraction is exactly the way they get through the hard times.  Insofar as I can see...leastways for me...  

The way that I engage with all this is through story.  I write poetry, short stories, sermons, reflections and other devotional pieces, blog posts, speeches, retreats and workshops, journals, columns, and probably other things that I'd need to check my resume for in order to remember right now.  It's my language for moving through the landscape of our fractured-expanding-and healing selves.  It's the way I attribute meaning.  And the way I offer something to the world so that others can pause and attribute meaning as what I offer merges into an unexpected alchemy with their own experience.

In Robert Frost's poem A Servant to Servants, the woman who is telling her story describes some brutal life experience, and in telling her story, she is actually moving through her story and out of it into something new.  This is the power of sharing our stories with each other.  We gain perspective - see where we have come from, what we have come through, and the new place we have come to.  And through it all we, and the world, are transformed. 


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