Following the light.
September 27, 2014 § 4 Comments
Like an audience, the flowers turn, tracking the progress of the sun across the sky.
Heliotropic, sunflowers always follow the light.
Once, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan I saw dozens of ravens, each in the top of a tall pine.
All faced into the storm, oriented to ride the whip of that wind.
Like the sunflower, like the raven, each of us seeks a direction to face that makes our lives possible.
Religion is one of the lights humans orient themselves by. Those who have not chosen that particular light are annoyed by the fervent knock on the door, the tract with the promise of eternity that is pressed on them, but the intent behind the act is good.
Having found the light the stranger at your door cannot leave you in the dark.
But finding which way to face to catch the light or ride out the storm is personal.
For my grandfather, repetition and habit did both. Every day at a specific time he set out for the mailbox, played a game of Napoleonic Solitaire, walked laps around the kitchen counter, enacting the myriad rituals that made up what he called “my routine.”
A veteran of the trench warfare of WWI, an immigrant from Italy to America, a survivor of the Great Depression, a man who lost a child at three and a wife much too early, he found safety and comfort in the predictable.
“My routine” was his way of guarding against the random and calamitous tendencies life had so amply shown him.
For my father the light was reasoned thinking, usually conducted while getting dirt under his nails in the garden. He was, above all, rational. Uncontrolled emotion was the storm he avoided, reason the light he followed.
Many of us find the light by championing a cause that is larger than self: civil rights, saving the elephants, marriage equality. The individual is small, but the force of numbers and conviction is great; I may perish, but the cause will go on.
Where my grandfather managed life by confining it in routine, I manage it by enlarging it, shaping it into something meaningful, even grand.
Whether sad or happy, stories insist that the day-to-day add up to something.
Like the Jehovah’s Witness at your door I am trying to turn you toward the light I see: life is big and worthy of your effort. It has meaning and significance.
Believing this is the beacon I walk toward–and the way I ride out the storm.
If I don’t convince you that story can give life meaning, that’s okay.
Each of us must find our particular sun and, like the sunflower, track it.
That light is what saves us from the storm.