To celebrate the acquisition of a new counselling room I once bought this pretty figurine. As you can see, half her head came off when I tripped over and dropped her on the pavement before I had even managed to get her home. While I glued her back together the thought occurred to me that my ‘true’ guardian angel must be full of cracks and near to burnout with all the interfering I do on a daily basis.
Yes, I am an interfering old so and so. Not content to let life take its course I often can’t resist ‘helping’ things along and nudging life in this or that (perceived) desired direction. Then I have visions of my team rushing around like supernatural super-beings to bring my life back on track where I’ve unwittingly driven it off course with my cosmic interfering.
So the other day, when, for once, I consciously put my phone down and told myself to ‘leave it alone’ and ‘let life take its course’ I imagined I heard an audible sigh of relief from my angelic ‘team’.
But hang on… that sounds like I hold the belief that life is pre-determined and that there is nothing I can or should do to change things. Don’t I like the idea of having some control over my destiny? Let go and let God is all well and good…. but I’m convinced we have some personal responsibility for our lives too. After all, Life is what you make of it.
I know I’m not alone in this. Free will and predestination are the twin conundrums that appear in all spiritual wisdom teachings.
On the one hand we are implored to trust that we are securely held in the palm of the Divine’s hand, while on the other, all the notions about heaven and hell, Dharma, Karma, etc. are based on the idea that we influence what happens to us. Are all murderers destined to be murderers, or can they influence the course of their lives. If danger threatens us, should we not try and do something about it, or should we surrender and leave our destiny to a higher power, to fate, to coincidence?
I am allergic to the simplistic application of the ‘everything happens for a reason’ adage. Stupid meaningless things happen to people all the time. It’s how we respond that might give them some kind of meaning. But at the same time, all religious and spiritual teaching seems to share the belief that life has its own rhythm, its own pace, and that all events, big or small, will play out as they will. Surrendering to the inevitable can be a veritable act of Grace.
While one part of me chafes at this notion of all creation being powerless to change the course of this Great Trip, there’s another part that loves the idea that I can just sit back and watch (my) Life unfold.
A middle ground
Trying for a middle ground, I imagine that our lives are like a river that runs its course from its unique mountain source to the open sea. The course is pretty much set, but the weather, the tributaries, the things you can see along the way, they’re all part of the decisions we make, or the intentions we put out into the universe.
The trick is to know when to take up the oars in our little rowing boat that’s bobbing up and down on the river, and when to let it drift along with the tide. So often we fail to enjoy the ride for what it is. We think it should be smoother, fairer, more exciting, less painful. Or we want the ride that someone else is having. And of course we want our children to have the best ride possible. We drag things from the river bank and load them into our boat, instead of just noticing them and not weighing down our boat to the point of sinking.
Really, I haven’t got the faintest idea; I just struggle with the ambiguity just like everyone else. And maybe that’s the point. To have the freedom to make the wrong decisions so we gradually learn what is correct, for us, for the unique individual that each of us is.
And maybe it sucked that before I even got her into my new counselling room, my ceramic guardian angel lost half her face through my carelessness. But then, the little figurine inside, the ‘me’, remained perfectly protected.
And that, just as an image for my life, gives me comfort.
Amsterdam May 2014 © Lysanne Sizoo