The Bridge and the Water of Life

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience;
we are spiritual beings having a human experience

~  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin  ~

I am back from a long (and unplanned) hiatus.  I won’t bore you with an explanation for my absence; let me just say that it is good to be back!

I have decided to share about one of my experiences that took place during my absence.  It was a reality check.  It proved to be an indicator of where I am at in my life, a reminder of where I have been as well as where I would like to be.  In a lot of ways, this experience has influenced my decision to base my next postings on the biggest and most significant process (and journey) that I have been on for the past five and a half years.

The scary thing is that each time I think that I have reached a watershed moment in my life and that I had reached the summit of this journey, something happens that makes me realise that this journey is far from being complete.  It has been a time of excavation and self-analysis, and in a lot of respects, my time away has revolved around me giving myself a break from all of the analysing and excavating, while allowing myself to be carried away by life.

The experience that I have alluded to was a cancer scare.  I discovered a lump in my right thigh, it was removed and sent for biopsy, and it led to me waiting about a fortnight for feedback.  There was a delay which sparked alarm inside of me and it led to my stomach doing contortions.  It was also a time that reminded me of a lot of my truths which prompted me to embark upon yet another process inside of myself.

For as long as I can remember (I would guess around the age of eight), there has always been an inner voice that has expressed the desire to die by the time that I reach the age fifty.  The best explanation that I can offer is that, wonderful as life is, it has felt as if the external realities and forces of life have held me back.  Held my spirit back.  I think that it can be best expressed with a quotation from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s book , The Phenomenon of Man:  “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”  And for some weird reason, even as a child, the spirit in me has accepted that it will be necessary to spend an adequate amount of time in this human experience, yet at the same time it has desired entering the Great Sleep and going back home.

With me responding to such situations in the way that I do, my initial question was, “What if I have cancer?”  The prospect of death was of little consequence to me, but the circumstances leading up to it were.  I couldn’t foresee myself having a drawn out battle with cancer and I decided that I wouldn’t go for chemotherapy if I were to be diagnosed with this disease.  I would much rather allow nature to take its course.  I decided (as if I had any say in the matter!!!) that if I did have cancer, I would want to be given 30 days to live.  It would be ample time to attend to unfinished business and to enjoy one final trip through this magnificent theme park called life.  Need I say that this was accompanied with a list of things that I would do if I had 30 days to live?

However, the tumor was benign which means that I still have thirteen years left on this earth.  I have spent time with my ‘To Do List’ because I have felt that it is an indicator of areas in my life (and in myself) that needs my attention, change and/or investment of time, effort and emotion.  It has made me realise that in the midst of the past five and a half years, I have not allowed myself to live as fully as I should, because of the amount of time that I have spent analysing, re-analysing and over-analysing, to the point of being caught in a perpetual cycle of brain gymnastics.

As a dear friend shared with me on Friday, “life is lived through those brief yet stunning experiences.”  This scare has been a call for me to start living from my heart once again, which has prompted me to reflect upon and preface my next string of musings with my reflections on “Wasted on the Way.”

Much as these reflections were written about three years ago and I have opted to share them with some of my friends, my heart tells me that this is a good starting point for me to embark upon my journey of living more fully and from the heart.

Look around me,
I can see my life before me
running rings around the way it used to be;
I am older now
I have more than what I wanted
but I wish that I had started long before I did.

And there’s so much time to make up

everywhere you turn,
time we have wasted on the way;
So much water moving
underneath the bridge,
let the water come and carry us away.

Wasted on the Way – Crosby, Stills & Nash
(words & music by Graham Nash)

One of the most poignant aspects of “Wasted on the Way” is the understated realization that we have had it within us all along to leave the safe viewing point of the bridge under which life flows, and to enter the Water of Living.

What does this mean?  It means that we shouldn’t fear.  We should embrace the opportunity to jump in and be carried away by life.  The chains that we thought were holding us on that bridge have not really been holding us.  We have been desperately grasping onto them from fear of being hurt again.

When you were young, did you question all the answers?

 We look for reinforcement in life’s events to rationalize the pain we feel from the past.

 Did you envy all the dancers who had all the nerve?

Ironically, the bridge is not a safe place; it is a prison of our own making.  All of the links in that chain that we have been grasping and cursing for holding us back are forged from the echoes of long-past events.  The only power remaining in that chain is through what we give it.  The water is not frightening; the water will not hurt us.  The water is cleansing, and is what will carry us forward.

As an aside:  Water is a great metaphor in this song.  The Taoists use water extensively in their imagery. If one clings to the riverbank during a storm, you are battered and bruised by the passing flotsam, yet if one lets go and travels with the flow little injury takes place.   Water always flows around obstacles, so it is better to “go with the flow.”


5 thoughts on “The Bridge and the Water of Life

  1. I have a brother who when he was young (12), later (19) and then during his twenties seemed to think he was indefeatable, could face death head on and acted rather dangerously. He is in his fifties and very much active and joyful, but he no longer seeks to live that close to the edge. He doesn’t want to live dangerously. I believe when you reach fifty as he has, (I never was death-defying and at age fifty-seven, still tend to cling to life itself), you will reconsider jumping off the bridge or giving up on life. I hope so, at least!

  2. Thank you, reocochran. I realise now that talking about jumping off a bridges has negative connotation to it, but I don’t mean it in either the suicidal or reckless way. The bridge in this reflection is a metaphor for the things inside of us that prevent us from entering life and living it fully (and not in the daredevil kinda way either). It could be fear, a broken heart, the loss of a loved one or even echoes of long past experiences that leave us believing that we aren’t good enough etc. Thanks once again for reading my post and for taking the time to share your thoughts with me.
    I hope that you are happy and well. :-)

    • I see what you mean after really reading more carefully. I guess that we sometimes do feel sad and think of the water as cleansing and a good release. I see it could mean letting go of the things that hold us back. Thanks for your thoughtful reply!

  3. Hi Reocochran,

    It’s always good to hear from you; I hope that you are well.

    Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to re-read and reflect upon my post. Knowing just how precious time is, it truly means a lot. And thank you for your feedback.

    All of the very best!

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