Place of Refuge

Place of Refuge

02 March 2010


I like the immediate, jerky quality of this film, but my absolute favorite part of this video is the guy saying "Good" at the end.
(for the actual YouTube posting, please go here)

I know it's a cliche to say life's a roller coaster, but I want to think about that for a minute.  You see, I do feel that comparison is very good, but perhaps not for all of the same reasons others might.  Going through life for the first time brings the same rush of fear and excitement that a first ride on any roller coaster would bring.  But when you've been on the ride many times, it gets kind of boring.  Sure, you don't mind doing it, because there's still the exhileration of the first hill, and those dips and sudden spins, but you know when they're going to come, and what the effect on you will be.  You know how others who haven't been on the ride before, or who have been on it only once or twice, will react.  And it's kind of fun to watch them.  But you begin to look for something new in the entire experience. Or you just get tired of it.

Now imagine being on a roller coaster like this without the option of getting off.  There's a certain point where you know the ups and downs and turns and spins and accelerations and decelerations so well that, well, you could recite them back in your sleep.  Indeed, you could probably fall asleep on it, because the fear is just not there anymore.  And even the sounds of the people around you, screaming, aren't all that exciting anymore; they're just like the screams in the background of a film.  You begin to take simple joys out of small pleasures, or the very subtle changes that assure you of the constancy of it all.

I thought about this today, as I was leaving for an appointment around 5:00 pm, and I realized how bright it was.  I had a similar meeting two weeks ago, and two weeks ago, 5:00 pm was dusk.  Today, it was still daytime.
As usual, this lifts my spirits a bit, knowing that we're rapidly headed towards longer days, sunny days, and summer.

But another thing struck me today, far more profoundly: I recognize the cycle, oh so well.  This winter, no matter how difficult it has been, has followed a very recognizable pattern.  The more you live through winters, the less troubling they are, because, in general, the earth is predictable.  It is bound to a particular course, and when you've spun around with it a few hundred times like I have, the body knows. 

I can tell precisely where I'm at in this annual cycle; I'm a far better predictor of how many more weeks of winter we'll have then any groundhog.  I've been on the planet long enough to recognize the signs, despite the fact that the ups and downs still make me a bit light-headed. Right now, I am grateful for the fact that all the natural signs are reinforcing the fact for me that life is coming around again, that rebirth will occur again, and soon.  I'd say we in the Northern Hemisphere will be well into Spring by mid-April.

Here's another film I've been viewing a lot the past few days, a film that reinforces the cycles of the planet, not to mention a larger pattern:

(again, follow this link for the original YouTube posting)

I know a lot of people have seen this video in their high school science class, but it was a revelation for me.  Remember, the little schooling I received was back in the age when folks were still arguing about Ptolemy vs. Copernicus, so actually seeing the moon displayed like this is a bit like seeing a child being born for the first time.  I particularly like the fact that in this video, you can see a navel-like crater at the bottom of the moon, that makes it look like an orange.  But even moreso, I find this captivating because when I look at it long enough, I can clearly see that the moon's phases that I'm watching are really the shadows of the earth, as it moves in its regular dance with the moon and the sun.  This visual account of the moon's phases is actually as close as we can get on Earth to seeing the roller coaster machinations of this little corner of the universe.

(original posting)

You see, that's the big difference between life and a roller coaster.  On a roller coaster, you can see the apparatus.  On the earth, we can't, so we begin to think we are the primary apparatus, or we are greater than the apparatus.  But its all an illusion.  As my dear old friend Bertolt Brecht used to insist about theatre: we must show the audience the apparatus!  As long as the audience can see the apparatus that holds the theatrical event together, they won't be too deceived, nor will they be too frightened.  And their minds will always be sharp. 

This is why we like roller coasters: even as they scare the living daylights out of us, they also comfort us, because the apparatus is visible, and audible.  We can see the heavy steel arms that hold us in place, and hear the creaking and clanking of the machinery that lifts us up and up, as we wait in anticipation for that moment it will drop us.  Relief comes when the fall is completed, and the apparatus is still there, solid and firm, holding us up.  Roller coasters are, essential, interactive theatrical performances of the experience of a life.

In fact, I'd dare to say that these roller coasters were created by some psychic urge within humans to represent the horrifying ups and downs of being born, becoming an adult human, maturing, aging, and dying.

And being reborn.  This is why we like to get on them again, or go to an amusement park where there are so many of them.

What most people don't recognize is that, even in the daily patterns of our life, we can see the signs that reveal the apparatus of the natural cycles and the patterns that we live within.  And, quite frankly, those patterns and cycles are far more profound and reliable than the metal that holds up a roller coaster.



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