Sunday, July 31, 2011

Purgatory Revisited

The road is long. The song resonates. And my regular road (dubbed “Purgatory Bridge” by a friend whose surname is, of all names, “Neway”) lies across a trestle bridge about the length of a city block, spanning the Victoria Gorge. On most occasions small boats glide to and fro through the central causeway beneath the wooden rattling of the road-wide bridge. There are the ubiquitous sea-kayakers, bright blue and red and yellow; there occasionally goes a small green pickle-shaped taxi-boat; there sometimes is a squat inboard-engine vessel, or a sleek small yacht, their tippy masts not quite tall enough to scrape the undersides of the causeway. But on the surface of the trestles, whether you are beside me in my power-chair or if on a bicycle or if running or walking or merely standing to one side to gaze down into the water you will be disturbed by the rattle of planks, the unevenness of gaps, the knots that give rise to tripping, the nail-heads that stick up for want of another pounding, and the commotion of the traffic of life. Being on it is enough to shake the fillings out of one’s teeth, to rattle at one’s rib cage, to compact one’s vertebrae, to dislocate one’s neck. And for each its very passage lies in one’s choice of going from one side to the other; we but take on the consequences of our expeditions.

Familiarity disassociates.  Used to the racket one can assume to be inured to the contagion of sound and bumping. Fortified by experience, one can choose the mystic pathway amongst the loom of evident contraventions, stiffen the core muscles and take comfort in the belief of the temporal nature of the enterprise. Fortified by experience, one can accommodate the taxation, the toil, the tithe, the pith and momentum of the passage, for in experience lies endurance, acceptance, integration, patience, and even success. One does reach an end.

But in the meantime is the passage always to be reconnoitered with such severity of inspection that one tip-toes amongst the hobgoblins and groans and grunts at every bruited bump, or can one knowingly steer course for the other side, look up and around, and acknowledge the sunset, the reflection on the water, the wave of the kayaker, the smile of a passerby, the wag of a dog’s tail? Having chosen to go to the other side, to journey, to progress, to passage in the way of living, where is there not a contrivance to hinder us? What might we not accomplish or comprehend should we stay immured by caution or even by cowardice ensconced in the seeming safety of our room for a womb? Independence is greatly realized in our mobility, if not physically, then at least mentally. It is our willingness daily to tackle the ruts and bumps and nail-heads and knots and rattling at our cage that determines the smoothness of our acceptance, the grace of our evolution.

We progress from now to now. Mindfulness of each moment is not about the ooh and ouch or wow and how of existence as much as it is about the way. And having chosen a path, as we know, way indeed leads on to way. Yet again and again, let me then not be a-feared of any such purgatory bridge; it too is a causeway unto yet more. And is not the striving to be born, the very call of life, not a reaching out of the dark into the light of yet more?

We need heed the things that go bump in the night, yes, but to cross the bridge of fear rather than bury oneself under the blanket is to find, more often than not, that the sound was only in the life-force of the wind. One breath at a time.  One bridge at a time. Now for now.