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The Chasm (Part 1?) – 7/4/15

I am standing on the edge of an abyss. The canyon before me is deep, too deep to judge its true significance with just my eyes, for my sight cannot penetrate the darkness pooling so far below me. I can only imagine where the bottom might be…

I look across the chasm, seeking insight from the other side, but it is so far removed from me, that it is nothing more than shadows against the horizon, a smudge of color in the distance. Maybe there is life there, but there is no way for me to tell…

Dead end. Another dead end. And I am alone here on the edge, as I have always been. Did I really expect that it might change? Did I really convince myself that anything I did might matter in the end? Did I really believe what I was saying all along? I wonder…

I look around me, trying to get my bearings. Red rock surrounds me, sand and dirt. The sun is setting to my left, bright red and burning in the distance. Looking up and to my right I see the deeper blue of night creeping across the nearly cloudless sky. And directly above me, colors I cannot quite capture in words: rich azure blue blended with the red-orange of a setting sun, a touch of yellow-white sunlight lingering within. “I wonder if such a palette could be captured in paint?,” I say aloud, then laugh openly at myself. “Frustrated artist, always, Lisa dearest, trying to capture the colors of life, knowing it cannot be done. At least not by you!”.

I know this because I have tried it. Many times. Depending on what paints I use, I can blend the colors into some mucky mess, or streak them together, which fails to capture that layered effect. Even using transparent paints, layered over one another cannot replicate the depth of color I see in the sky today. I shrug. “I guess it isn’t meant to be. Some things can only be experienced, I guess, not captured.”

“Hmm… Maybe if I had a camera? Surely that would mark this moment in time?!”

“But I don’t have one with me today,” I remind myself. Of course, I never do when it really matters, I know. “I guess it isn’t meant to be today. Some things are for me to experience alone, I guess, not share.”

The story of my life, playing out again…

Sighing deeply, I look around again, looking for some place to sit and think. Not far away is an outcropping of rock; reds and grays and browns, with just a taste of green mixed in. Laughing at myself again, and my need to always colorize my space, I wander over to rest upon the stone…

It is warm still from the sun, but already I can feel the chill beneath the warmth. Soon the moon will rise, and this stone will be silver and black, and cold to the touch. But the air is warm for now, and I know that so long as I sit upon the Earth, it will retain its warmth for me. “She is good to me that way,” I think to myself. “She always does Her best to comfort me.”

It helps, I know, to recognize this fact, because in doing so, I do not feel so alone. Maybe there are no people here with whom I can share these experiences, but the Earth and Moon and Sun exist, as do the elements they direct. And, knowing that, I cannot feel completely alone… That is some small comfort at this time.

“No!,” I correct myself quickly. “It is no small thing at all! It is huge! It is important! It is significant!” For I am not alone, no matter how it feels, and I know that. Why then do I insist on denying or minimizing that fact of my existence?

“Why, indeed?,” I wonder… Perhaps that is why I am out here today, to discover that very answer… But I have many questions today, so who knows what I have come here to learn?

Turning my face to the setting sun, I let the questions go, and slowly the thoughts begin to fade as well. Until all around me, and within me, is silence once more..

.

The sun slides quietly out of sight, and night creeps in on stealthy paws. Still no thoughts disturb my peace…

Stars and planets emerge from the gloom, lighting up an otherwise empty sky. It is beautiful out here, to be sure, with no electric light to distract the eye. A cool breeze touches me, bringing my flesh alive with a rush, accompanied by thousands of prickles along my exposed skin. I shift restlessly on my throne of stone, feeling uncomfortable, and noting at last how hard its surface is. “Not my bed, for sure,” I murmur to myself, chuckling softly.

My voice is loud in the night sky, and I nervously look around, wondering who might be listening to me. But there is no one about, at least not that I can see… Still, I do not feel alone, and so I wonder to myself, “is someone watching me?”

As that thought crosses my mind, a breath of fear touches me, and I cannot help but laugh at myself once more. “First you complain that you are always alone out here, yet the first hint you have of company makes you want to hide in fear! Ahh, Lisa, what is wrong with you, my dear?!”

I look around once more, carefully, using sight and sound and smell and taste to measure my surroundings. The starlight sparks on something shiny in the distance, and curiosity drives me from my stony seat. “What IS that?,” I wonder to myself, moving closer to the light with every step. “Can’t resist anything shiny, can you?,” I tease myself.

As I approach the mystery, shining in the dark, I discover it is a broken piece of mirror. I stop beside it and look around, wondering how such a thing could exist in this environment, for there is nothing modern in this place. In a heartbeat I am reminded of so many, many stories, mine and others’, that include mirrors as a central theme. They are not an insignificant symbol to be sure, reflecting a wide range of mystery, magic, and self-discovery. “This, then, must be why I am here,” I tell myself…

Reaching down, I pick up the broken shard, careful not to cut myself on the sharp edges. “That, alone, is significant in such a place,” I think.  “Sharp edges, self-protection, an incomplete picture,” I muse, making mental note of ideas I will later need to explore in more depth…

I look within, and see…

My Self, sort of, for the shard can only reveal a portion of who I am. But I recognize that image enough to know that she is me. “Or is she?,” I ask aloud, tilting my head to view her from another angle. I see an eye, the side of my nose, a cheek, some strands of hair blowing across my face, the corner of my mouth… “Yes, me. But not me at all. And certainly not all of me!”

“Aha!!,” I shout aloud. “Lesson one achieved: my self-image is a poor reflection of who I truly am, capturing much too small a picture to reveal the Truth that is me.

Yes! Makes sense. “But surely I already knew that one,” I think to myself, “that seems a given in my life. Or is there some new depth to that truth that I am missing here?”

I look again into the mirror, shifting it to and fro, seeking new perspective on this old Truth I’ve known… Shifting the mirror just so, I see it sparkle in the starlight again, capturing the multitude of tiny stars and reflecting them back as a brilliant, singular beam…

“Aha,” I breathe softly to myself, “another lesson marked; less clear than the first, perhaps, but important nonetheless. Having something to do with the many becoming one? Or maybe about taking in the Light, the Truth, from many sources, and using my gifts and wisdom to combine, distill, and blend those truths, before reflecting them back to the world in singular clarity?”

Hmm… Thinking back to my earlier self-discussion, I cannot help but question my ability to blend anything in such a way as to capture a perfect moment, or truth. After all, I have never been able to capture the layers of color in a perfect sky; how then can I hope to capture layers of truth in mere words and images? And so self-doubt dims the significance of this particular lesson…

I look once more into the mirror, examining that small reflection of me, and this time I can see the flaws within. I see the heavy bags under my eye, the discoloration of my skin. I note the frown lines around the corner of my mouth, and the silvery-gray strands slowly replacing the red in my hair.

“Ahh… Time is passing, whether you acknowledge it or not,” I remind myself, ignoring the rebellious thoughts that rise within telling me that time is mere illusion, not fact. “All those words mean nothing, Lisa, if you are stuck here in this place. They are words, mere reflections of great ideas, but useless if you cannot make them manifest in the world in which you live.”

Sighing deeply, I acknowledge yet another lesson learned: words, however beautiful or compelling, are mere reflections of the concepts they are meant to represent; they have no power other than to influence action. And it is action, not words, that can bring change into the world…

“So, where are the actions to back up these words of yours, my dear Self?,” I ask aloud. “What are you actually doing to manifest your dreams and desires today?!”

I need not answer that, even to myself, for action has always been my shortfall. I glance over my shoulder at the chasm beyond, knowing I am as stuck here as ever, no matter what lessons I “learn.” For I have never, in all my years, and maybe lifetimes, too, found a way to bridge that gorge before me. It exists, real or not, preventing me from moving on, from moving beyond this place. Never have I seen a way to cross that chasm, even when I suspected that there exists the “real” goal; that is, the manifestation of all I’ve ever wished my Self to know…

No, this place, on the edge of existence, is the closest I have ever gotten, though I have been here many times before. I’ve even tried telling myself that this is all that is, that this is the point, the place I’ve been trying to reach! But we can lie to ourselves only so long, before not even we believe anymore. “Which usually occurs some long time after everyone else has given up on us!,” I chuckle to myself.

Ahh… And yet another lesson settles in around my saddened soul: what is true for me is often true for others, as well, since we exist, in part, to reflect these truths between our selves.

Slowly I wander back to the edge of the abyss, and stare down into the darkness within, complete now as the night sky fails to illuminate it at all. “What is the point?,” I ask myself. “Why am I really here today?” Truth be told, I do not know, though I am ever loathe to admit such facts, even to myself.

“This shouldn’t be so hard!,” I scold myself. “Life isn’t all that complicated, and Truth itself, is usually the simplest thing of all!”

Briefly I consider jumping off that cliff, into the unknown mystery below… “Could it be worse there than what I know?”

I think about the life I’ve lived, or even lives perhaps. I know that this cliff edge is the farthest I have ever progressed, that I have been here many times. I acknowledge that thinking can only take me so far, and then action must be required. But that is what glues me in this world, for I know not what action best serves me.  I’ve heard wise souls say we must take risks to move beyond the ruts in which we get stuck, but fear, and that ever-present need to know before I act, keeps me firmly where I’m at.

“I do not wish to begin again,” I warn myself once more. “I do not want to have to learn all this again, only to find myself stuck in this same rut. To act is necessary, but such action cannot be allowed to set me back!”

I sit down on the edge of the abyss, allowing my legs to dangle above the chasm. I feel the air moving beneath my feet, and am struck with a strange sense of vertigo. Sadly, I remember a time when I was not afraid of heights. I remember being a child, climbing onto the railing at the top of the Eiffel Tower, leaning over to see all of Paris spread out below me, and reveling in the view. I remember walking on top of the crumbling ramparts of ancient castles in Germany, never thinking twice about the possibility of falling, even when loose stones wriggled under my feet. I remember crossing fast running creeks on old logs, laughing in delight as the water rushed over my feet, threatening to dislodge me from my precarious perch. Or standing atop the falls in Stony Brook Park, settling down to sit in the rushing water with my feet hanging over the edge, never doubting that I was safe there, no matter what anyone said…

But I am afraid now…

“Is it merely age?,” I wonder, “or wisdom learned over time?”

“To hell with this!,” I scold myself. Standing once more, I force myself to stand on the very lip of the chasm, in spite of my fear. Emboldened now by my defiance, I consider the options before me…

“If I jump, I could die; simple fact. I have no way of knowing how deep it is, but judging from what I saw while the sun was still up, the bottom, if there is one, is far away indeed.” I am suddenly intrigued by the possibility, however remote, that maybe there is no bottom at all; in which case, I could fall endlessly and never die, unless the stress and expectation of potential impact is enough to stop my heart.

“Then again, if this is merely a dream state I am in, then I could learn to fly, and simply soar across this chasm to the other side.” Again I am intrigued, until frustration settles in. “But then I would have wasted all this time and energy over something that was never truly an obstacle at all!,” I growl. Somehow such irony seems fitting as a testament to my life, always making things more difficult for myself than they really needed to be…

For a long time I stand there, waiting for more ideas to come, but nothing else decides to join me in that place. “All righty, then, I guess that’s where I stand. My choices seem to be few, and none more appealing than the others. I can jump, and die, or perhaps I will learn to fly. Barring that, it is

possible I might fall forever. In any case, there is no coming back, once I make that leap…”

“The alternative is to stay here, wherever here actually is, which hardly seems appealing at all.”  It is then that it occurs to me that I have no idea where I actually am in this moment, how I got here, or how I might go back.

Still holding that shard of mirror in my hand, I squeeze it hard in my frustration, feeling the sharp edges slice into the tender skin of my palm and fingers. I step back, rear my arm back, and throw that shard as far out into the gorge as I possibly can. As it flies away, I note the sparks of light glinting from the surface as it spins. And in the distance, from the other side, an answering sparkle of light seems to flash back at me…

Staring into the darkness that marks where the other side should be, I wait expectantly for more slivers of light to appear. But there is nothing more to see there. Glancing down, I see black streams of blood forming in my palm, and I take comfort in knowing I am alive, at least.

“It doesn’t really matter, does it?,” I ask myself. “I do not want to be here anymore. And though I do not know for sure what lies beyond, I trust that it must be different than what I’ve known. I am ready for a change, whatever that change might be…”

And so, taking several steps back from the edge, I set out to do the bravest (or craziest) thing I’ve ever done. Without another thought, I simply run, leaping off the edge with all my heart, and hope, and dreams, and need to move beyond this place…

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