Tuesday, August 4, 2020

We Are One

No, I am not traveling on a vibrantly decorated train through the heart of India, but I've got my own version of dreamy pastels gilded in golden sunlight here in my backyard. 

This summer has set me adrift on a sea of deep and difficult emotions. 

No, I'm not necessarily talking about Covid, though the random life-or-death hand that this viral card has dealt us is probably ramping up the intensity of emotion I feel.

I am walking with several friends who are going through desperate times. 

Truly desperate. 

And despite my endless energies 

for doing, 
for fixing, 
for hoping, 
for always finding a way, 

I experience myself truly at the end of my abilities to make a difference in their lives. 

I'm at a complete and total loss. 

I've always assumed that if I ever found myself in this out-of-options place, I would then find myself also feeling broken, defeated, and utterly lost. 

But what I am learning is that this is not true.

What happens next, I discover, is a letting go.

I'm letting go of my need 

to do, 
to be, 
to think. 
to say,

anything at all for my friends.

I am simply, silently walking alongside of them. 

* * * * *

It's such an easy thing to talk about this soul-deep letting go, but I find it very difficult to sustain this head space. 

Falling, falling, falling. This can't be happening. I need to find a way to stop this madness. Don't I?

When I find myself diving headfirst into panic, I remember what I need 

to slow myself down, 
to stop myself, 
to regain my perspective:


Intense colors, pastels punctuated with deep yellow, vibrant red.
Sunlight, angled and golden.
Layers of pattern and detail, texture and depth.

When I surround myself with beauty, I find myself able to breathe. 

* * * * *

Night before last, as I struggle to sleep and feel the familiar frustrations welling up inside me once again, a new thought bursts into my mind.

It's been well over a decade since I saw this Wes Anderson 2007 release, and I saw it only once, but in a heartbeat, I know that I need 

to watch this movie, 
to take in these images, 
to let them soothe me back to a right place of mind.

Thank goodness for streaming. 

Moments later, I'm taking in the opening sequence, and already I feel myself drifting back into peace. The visuals of this film have an amazing capacity to still my mind and calm my soul. 

The story suits my mood as well. It goes like this:

Three brothers have become estranged from each other as well as their surviving mother since their father's death a year past. They meet on a train in India, resume their old bickering ways, and travel toward spiritual enlightenment and an unsatisfying reunion with Mom. Along the way, they try but fail to save the life of a drowning boy, and find themselves invited to the funeral.

What unfolds is a minute-and-a-half-long uncut scene of the three men walking among villagers on their way to the ceremony, and what we later learn is that this experience helps them begin to heal from their father's death.

Visually breathtaking, emotionally transforming, technically exquisite, the scene knocks my socks off. Here, I invite you to watch for yourself. 

As I see 

the golden light suffusing the scene,
the flowers tossed into the air, 
the sheet pulled over the young boy, 

I feel my tensions ease and my pain subside. 

Life is full of love and loss, this scene whispers to me. Beauty is found in the joys, for sure, but it also comes, intensely and vividly, in life's sorrows. We must find the courage to accept the pain.

* * * * *

On my third or fourth viewing of the funeral scene, my ears awake and I notice the song playing under the images. 

It's Strangers by the Kinks, and this is the refrain:

Strangers on this road we are on
We are not two, we are one. 

Now the dots connect and the idea comes full circle. 

I cannot save my friends' lives. I cannot fix what it wrong, I cannot heal what is broken.

But I can walk with them, reminding them now and again that I'm with them, telling them that they are not alone.  

We are not two, we are one.

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