Meditations: The River of Life

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    Summer’s calm creek has become winter’s raging river in this small city in northern California. The end of December deluge has brought inches of rain to the Central Valley, and feet of snow to the High Sierra.

    The ribbon of life winds and wends under bare brush and skeletal limbs. Sitting in the sun on a greening bank overlooking a half-mile stretch of the torrent, one feels overwhelmed by the concentrated force. Soon there is only the water, rushing relentlessly forward, sweeping everything with it. Sometimes life veritably shouts, “Let go!”

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    The winds too are strong today, accentuating the feeling of wildness in the city’s parkland. Gusts whip the upper branches of the oaks, sycamores, and evergreens across the stream, sometimes buffeting one below. But the water still predominates.

    A black dog runs up the short path, off the main path behind me, but the creek is flowing and the wind is blowing so hard I don’t see it until it’s almost upon me. A woman in all black, and shorts incongruously, shepherds the animal down the trail, but I didn’t feel in any danger.

    A branch that’s bent down into the swift current looks like a sailing ship’s rudder as the water swirls around it. The silvery stream sweeps and curves for over a quarter mile, and at the very end, an occasional vehicle can be seen going by above the water on a road adjacent to the park.

    What does it mean to leave the stream of content-consciousness? Most people live their lives immersed in the things of thought, internally and externally, which are actually the same thing. There is another movement altogether, for which nature is both expression and gateway.

    As I see it, consciousness as we know it has reached its limit. Though content-consciousness essentially is the past, it has become saturated with darkness, allowing less and less space, respite, and peace. Something has to give.

    What is the origin of the darkness that is now suffocating so many, especially in the West? Clearly, darkness is not a Western phenomenon, but the product of human consciousness per se. Even so, the word is too vague to bring any insight and clarity into the fact, and point a way out.

    We deal with its symptoms-conflict, ecological destruction, depression, anomie, and many other things, but we hardly ever confront the thing itself. Darkness is both taken as a given, and denied.

    To my mind, there are two streams of darkness flowing together, one arising from the individual, the other from collective consciousness. The latter is the sum total of all the unmet fears, divisions, hurts, hatreds, jealousies of man, and has a life of its own.

    Resignation is the worst thing, generating a deadening of feeling and a permanent limitation of horizons. That’s the ultimate goal of the darkness of consciousness, which has a will of its own, though it can only operate through willing individuals.

    When one observes the preponderance of ‘zombies’ in this culture, one wonders, has Darkness won?

    I think that as long as there are a few people who keep themselves inwardly alive, and don’t hide their light under a bushel (a tendency I had in the past), it hasn’t won, even in a dead culture such as this.

    Indeed, it may be that a dead culture provides the best humus for the emergence and growth of a new one. Obviously, some change in the composition of the soil has to occur however.

    Does leaving the stream of darkness involve a transmutation? The human brain, as it generally functions, experiences life through the filter of memory, association, symbol, and conditioning. When that entire movement spontaneously stops through passively attending to it, another kind of consciousness comes into being.

    Isn’t that too high a bar for human beings, since so few have attained that level of transformation?

    I don’t know. All I’m sure of is that no matter how dark things get, no matter how many people numb and deaden themselves beyond human recognition, life still flows through one if one doesn’t give up, is self-knowing, and keeps learning.

    Martin LeFevre
    [email protected]

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