Grace and peace to you
We don’t learn how to swim by attending a lecture on swimming and similarly we don’t get fit by attending a lecture on fitness.
We get fit by going for a run or walk.
We learn how to swim by getting into the water – first in the shallow end where we can stand or with a flotation aid to hold and hopefully with someone we trust by our side. We learn to hold our breath underwater by practicing dipping our head under the water. This helps us to overcome our fear of being totally covered by the water. Ultimately if we want to learn how to swim we need to stop trying to keep as much of our body out of the water.
This is true for the deeper lessons of life. The things that really matter can only be learned by full immersion. Love can only be learnt at the risk of allowing ourselves to love and be loved. The values of compassion and justice and gentleness can only be learnt through a process of patient persistence which are values in themselves.
Wanting an immediate answer to something sometimes reveals that we have not understood the question because the answer is not the answer! The struggle with the question is the answer.
For factual questions like: “What is the legal speed limit?” the answer may simply be given. But for relational questions like: “How do I forgive my neighbour?” answers can’t be given. The “answer” to relational questions can only be discovered in the wrestling. As Mark Nepo so beautifully reveals in his poem, Behind the thunder.
Behind the thunder
I keep looking for one more teacher,
only to find that fish learn from water
and birds learn from sky.
If you want to learn about the sea,
it helps to be at sea.
If you want to learn about compassion,
it helps to be in love.
If you want to learn about healing,
it helps to know of suffering.
The strong live in the storm
without worshiping the storm.
The dams are low in the Cape,
we are told
not to fill the swimming pool,
not to water the garden,
not to wash the car,
not to take a bath.
We’ve never –
never had a swimming pool to fill,
never had a garden to water,
never had a car to wash,
never had the privilege of taking a bath
to soak away the aches and pains
that flood our cups and bowls,
Seems the dams have been low
for us, forever.
© Athol Williams