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Saturday, December 31, 2016

On the Verge


There are times when a feeling of expectancy comes to me, as if something is there beneath the surface of my understanding, waiting for me to grasp it.”
Sylvia Plath (The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath)

Today is New Year's Eve, 2016—the very last day of a tumultuous year that most everyone I know will be happy to see end. With every new year, we hope that things will change for the better, but uncertainty plagues us. That seems more true this year than any other time I can remember. There is a restless expectancy—for some of us, it verges on excitement, and for others, on paranoia. What's going to happen? We can feel something building; a shift in consciousness coming, but we don't know as yet how it will break—for good or ill. Hermann Hesse describes the feeling well in Siddhartha: “Dreams and restless thoughts came flowing to him from the river, from the sun's melting rays. Dreams and restlessness of the soul came to him.”

Plath characterizes this period of awareness of something just beneath the surface, but not yet grasped, in terms of evolutionary change—as when humans began to shed their wisdom teeth because they were no longer needed for chewing roughage; the gradual disappearance of hair from the body, the adjustment of the human eye to focus on fine print. Major evolutionary shifts don't happen quickly, but when they are complete, everything is different, and it feels as though it happened overnight. This New Year's Eve is like that—like fish frozen in a winter pond. You know they're not dead, but they certainly look dead. Will they swim away when the water thaws? A major leap is on the horizon, but we don't yet know whether that leap will be backward or forward.

This restlessness of the soul is so uncomfortable that we try to block it, or get rid of it. We engage in behavior that gives us temporary relief but, in the long run, does us more harm than good—things like alcohol, drugs, promiscuity, obsessive shopping. The fact is, we simply have to wait and watch. Wait and watch and pray and do what we can to help one another get though this period of uncertainty.

                                                             In the Spirit,


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