The Cracking Branch: Downsized Soul

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I would have liked to believe there was something heroic about how I handled getting fired. I’d like to think I was Jacob wrestling at the Jabbok, or the Samurai falling on his sword. In La Queste del Sainte Graal Joseph Campbell tells the story of King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail. King Arthur’s knights are seated at his table, but Arthur will not let the meal be served until an adventure occurs. Sure enough, the Grail appears to them, carried by angelic powers, veiled by cloth. Then it vanishes. Arthur’s nephew Gawain proposes that the knights pursue the Grail in order to see it unveiled. And off they go.

Campbell’s favorite lines are these: “They thought it would be a disgrace to go forth in a group. Each entered the forest that he had chosen where there was no path and where it was darkest.

“Now, if there’s a way or a path, it’s someone else’s way … What is unknown is the fulfillment of your own unique life, the likes of which has never existed on the earth. And you are the only one who can do it. People can give you clues how to fall down and how to stand up, but when to fall and when to stand, and when you are falling, and when you are standing, only you can know.”

But there was nothing brave or noble about how I was dealing with the blow, nothing spiritual about the rat. I was back wallowing in my self-doubts and fears, repeating yet again that the timing of the rat’s appearance in our home was proof that I was useless—even though the holes we plugged now seemed to be holding.

No, I was no Samurai, no King Arthur, no Jacob, not even a lump of coal with the potential to be something more. Rather, I was the woman in the 12-Step tradition story who had been taking a walk on a high mountain path. The woman slipped and fell over the side. Frantically grabbing an overhanging branch, she was dangling a hundred feet above the valley floor when suddenly the branch began to crack.


This woman cried out for help.
“God, are you up there?”
“Yes, my daughter,” God replied. “What can I do for you?”
“God, help me. Tell me what to do!” She cried.
“You really want to know?”
The branch cracked a bit more, Desperate, she cried out again.
“Yes, God. Tell me! I’ll do whatever you say.”
There was a moment’s silence. Then God replied:
“Let go of the branch.”
“Let go of the branch?”
“Yes, my daughter. Let go of the branch.”
There was another moment’s silence. Then the woman asked:
“Is there anybody else up there?”


Chapter 21 from The Year I Saved My (downsized) Soul by Carol Orsborn
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